A good boss is one of the essential elements in any business as they set the tone for the rest of the team and can make or break a company’s success. A bad boss can cause stress and frustration within an office and can also harm productivity, morale, and even retention rates. Managerial candidates often ask us, “What are the leading qualities of a good boss?” so we asked leading career counselors, resume writers, HR professionals, CEOs, and career coaches for their advice.
Everyone wants to work for a good boss that does the right things, but what does it mean to be a good boss? Here are qualities that every good manager with direct reports needs.
Characteristics of a Good Boss
Based on feedback from over 50 leaders that responded to our query, these are the most important qualities of good bosses.
Good bosses are straight shooters who don’t hide behind closed doors or play power games with their employees. A great leader is transparent about the company’s status, financials, and plans with the entire team. If anything affects an employee’s job at hand, it should be communicated immediately with clear expectations so that the employee can decide accordingly.
McKenna Sweazey, a remote and hybrid management work expert focusing on Digital Empathy, agrees.
Transparency is the most important quality in a remote manager as remote teams leave a lot of room for asynchronous, hidden information. Asymmetric knowledge drives a wedge between managers, colleagues, and regions. Committing to more transparent knowledge distribution takes bandwidth from other projects, but culture and team synergy disintegrate without it.
Great managers prioritize the time, processes, and technology necessary to disseminate information equitably. Transparency also applies to business strategy. Working remotely can at times be a lonely experience, but for employees who have a clear understanding of what they are working towards, it’s easier to stay committed and engaged.
2. Communicates Effectively
A great manager has effective communication skills. They can clearly explain what needs to be done in different situations and convey their expectations without making anyone feel inferior or superior. A good communicator also knows how to listen well to understand what others are saying before responding with his own opinion or solution.
Dave Rietsema, the Founder and CEO of Matchr.com and a former HR Professional with more than ten years of experience helping companies find the best HR software, suggests the following.
Good managers can communicate feedback in such a way that they know what to do to improve while also not feeling discouraged. It’s important for a manager to be good at choosing their words carefully in order to convey the right message to their employees so that negative feedback is a learning opportunity instead of discouraging them.
A good manager should also be able to communicate their knowledge in order to help their employees grow and improve. Good communication also means being transparent and honest as well as knowing when to listen. Employees should feel comfortable communicating in return, especially if they need help or if there is a problem.
3. Is Consistent With Decisions
Great bosses should have both consistency and fairness in their management style. Their decisions should be consistent over time and across situations but fair. Unfortunately, bad bosses will change the rules depending on who they’re dealing with.
A good boss understands that consistency leads to trust and confidence in the workplace, resulting in better performance. When you’re consistent with your decisions, people will respect and trust you regardless of whether or not they agree with each decision.
4. Shows Appreciation for Hard Work and Results
The best bosses are the ones who show appreciation for their employee’s hard work and results. They understand that their team’s success results from everyone’s efforts. When employees feel appreciated, they are more productive and put in the extra effort. Bosses who appreciate their employees’ hard work create a positive work environment and help build a strong team.
Eva Chung with Advantis Global, a leading IT Staffing agency, shared the following with Matchbuilt.
Show appreciation to humanize the relationship. In remote settings, it’s hard to show appreciation because communication and physical interactions are limited. If there is a budget, send a periodic gift card, treat, birthday present, or even an email shout-out. It’s important to celebrate small wins and show your team that their work is being noticed and recognized. Most people look for fulfillment and acknowledgment in their work.
5. Coaches Up the Team
Coaching is more than just training, though the training is an integral part of it. It’s about understanding the big picture and helping employees become better at what they do through feedback and guidance. It’s about recognizing potential and encouraging development so employees can reach their full potential as professionals and people. It’s also about creating an environment where everybody wins because everyone supports their success both professionally and personally.
Gerrid Smith, the Director of E-commerce of Joy Organics and featured in INC.com, Forbes.com, Entrepreneur.com, and CIO.com, shared the following.
Coaching is one of the most useful things that a manager can do for the people of their team, and it is one of the things that they can do for them. The most successful managers consider themselves not just leaders but also coaches, whose primary responsibilities are to inspire and motivate their staff.This mindset is what allows them to be so effective. They are aware of the emotional well-being of their employees and lead by setting an example in this regard themselves. They are able to identify situations in which training is required and then offer it in a manner that causes as little disturbance as is humanly possible.
6. Show Concern for Others
Every good boss is aware of their employees and their needs. If you want to be a great boss, it’s essential to be in tune with every aspect of your employees’ struggles at work. You want to look out for your team members and do everything you can to ensure they’re working in the best possible environment, which means knowing what they need and are struggling with.
Employees who feel like their boss cares about them are likelier to go above and beyond for the company. They will be more likely to work hard and be productive.
Josh Pelletier, the Chief Marketing Officer of BarBend, a media outlet created to help people live stronger, healthier lifestyles, shared the following with us.
As an expert, I am convinced that competent managers should greet their staff and inquire about their well-being. They are accessible to all employees and give their whole attention anytime employees require assistance.
Good managers are also personally invested in the lives of their employees. They consistently show their appreciation for their staff, which aids them in recognizing their genuine conduct. This also enhances the employee’s level of devotion to the work being completed.
7. Resolves Conflicts Effectively
Conflicts are inevitable in any organization, but handling these situations can determine your success as a leader. Resolving conflicts effectively means resolving disputes amicably and not affecting work performance or relationships between coworkers or subordinates. You can do this by showing the involved parties how to compromise and not letting the conflict get personal. However, this doesn’t mean that you should be lax when enforcing discipline and clarifying misperceptions because sometimes a conflict can get out of hand if not handled properly.
Martin Carreon, the owner of Soco Wine Country Properties, believes conflict resolution is also a key trait.
It’s important for a manager or a boss to have strong conflict resolution skills to resolve any conflicts that arise with team members due to multiple personalities. Understanding how to settle the conflict and mediate conflicts in a way that makes everyone feel appreciated is critical for keeping projects on track and morale high.
Conflict management skills, like other communication skills, must be learned and exercised by every manager. Underlying problems of a workspace are often revealed in the course of a conflict resolution discussion. A good manager takes into account his employee’s feelings and actively listens to his employees to make them feel better.
8. Delegates Effectively
A good leader knows how to delegate effectively. They recognize when something needs to be done and assign it to the right person, and they are confident in their employees’ skills and abilities.
Kristina Knight, a freelance writer and editor at the BizReport, with more than 15 years of experience writing about business and marketing subjects, shared the following with MatchBuilt.
Great bosses have to learn to delegate and have to find that next hustler to help them keep all of the balls in the air and the department moving forward.
9. Emotional Intelligence
Emotional intelligence is the capacity to recognize, interpret, and respond appropriately to emotions, both your own and others. You also need to recognize when someone has an emotional reaction, how it will affect them, and how it will affect the situation. Unlike a boss who makes an employee feel incompetent, when you possess emotional intelligence, you can manage your emotions effectively to not affect how you work or deal with other employees.
Ioana Sima, the Chief Marketing Officer at TextMagic, a company that provides text message software for businesses, shared the following expert insight on emotional intelligence.
65% of executives said they would prefer a better boss over a higher salary. This tells us one thing: a good boss is someone with a high emotional IQ, who can tackle human interaction in all its diversity and is also great at their job. How does someone achieve that? Through self-knowledge, empathy, and the right skill set for their professional role.
10. Shows Empathy for Others and Caring a Bit
With empathy and simply caring a bit, you can put yourself in someone else’s shoes and understand how they’re feeling. Even if you can’t get inside their head, you can at least realize that they’re feeling something, and that’s worth considering before making any big decisions.
By demonstrating empathy towards other people, you’ll be a good example and role model and develop an open environment where people feel comfortable coming to you with issues or problems at work. In return, you’ll receive more candid feedback from your employees. They will know that if something goes wrong with their job, there’s someone there who genuinely wants to help them correct it.
The New York Times explores this further in their article Bosses: Consider Caring a Bit.
Blame their parents, but surveys indicate that employees in their 20s and 30s want to work for companies whose purpose extends beyond profit-making. They value companies that have a positive impact on society, show a commitment to a diverse and inclusive workforce, and are focused on issues such as pay equity and the environment.
11. Encourages Others
The best boss encourages others to be their best selves. They see potential in everyone they work with, even if it’s hard for others to see it themselves. They encourage employees to think outside the box, take risks, and do things differently than before, which will help them grow professionally over time.
Karolina Zając, a Community Manager at Passport Photo Online, shared her insight on the topic.
A good boss is one who encourages employees to advance their skills and provides growth opportunities. It’s vital for young professionals, who make up the most significant part of the current workforce. But, it’s also beneficial for employers who gain a team of trained, loyal employees.
12. Sets Realistic Expectations
Setting realistic expectations regularly is an essential skill for any boss, and it helps guide your employees to achieve their goals while staying on track with your company’s goals. There are two components to this skill: first, figuring out what expectations are fair and reasonable, and second, communicating those expectations clearly and concisely so each staff member is moving in the right direction. The more specific your expectations are, the less likely your employees will make mistakes or misunderstand what they’re supposed to be working on.
Trevor Larson, the CEO and Founder of Nectar, an employee recognition HR software company that helps teams and businesses of all sizes unlock the power of employee recognition, shared the following with us.
A good boss is someone who is able to give clear instructions and expectations and is available to answer questions and give guidance when needed. They create a positive work environment by encouraging their employees and celebrating their successes. A good boss is also fair and treats all of their employees equally.
It’s common for leaders to assume that being humble means not having any confidence in themselves or their abilities. While it’s true that a big ego can cause problems, an individual can be confident without being arrogant or brash. Pride is much different from confidence, and the two don’t always go hand in hand. Pride can be dangerous if it causes you to overestimate your abilities and overlook your flaws.
14. Provides Clear Feedback
As a leader, you want your employees to know what needs improvement, where they are doing well, and how they can move forward in their careers. Constructive feedback doesn’t just benefit the employee; it helps improve the organization by ensuring everyone is on the same page and meeting goals.
Feedback should be delivered professionally and objectively based on positive or negative facts. Handling criticism gracefully will help your employees accept and learn from constructive criticism, leading to improved performance. It’s important to keep in mind that constructive feedback isn’t only given during a performance review and should be a routine element of your leadership style.
Amie Devero, the President of Beyond Better Strategy and Coaching, an executive-level consulting and coaching firm, reaffirms feedback’s importance.
Even great bosses need to correct mistakes, fix failures, or address poor performance. But again, there is a choice. Bad bosses attack the person’s character, generalize about their ability, and provide little useful feedback to improve.
15. Creates a Fun Work Environment
A good boss creates opportunities for professional growth and an environment where work is fun. They know how to make the office a place where you want to be, and they do so in a way that’s still productive for their business.
In work environments with an overall positive atmosphere, employees are more likely to perform well and be comfortable with their jobs. This makes the job easier for the boss because the workers will put in the extra effort.
Philip Pasma, President of Asterisk Marketing, agrees that a good boss should create a fun work environment.
A good boss ensures a fun work environment, which grows satisfaction and loyalty among the employees. Also, it takes the pressure off the employees and allows them to focus on their work better.
16. Motivates the Team
True leaders have to be able to encourage their team members to keep working even when things get difficult. A good boss will make their employees feel like they are part of something bigger than just themselves. They will also help their team members achieve their goals by providing them with opportunities to grow in their careers. A good boss also motivates their team by giving feedback, compensation benefits, and bonuses for work done well.
17. Sets Clear Goals
When you give employees clear instructions and the goals of the organization, they can adequately assess their projects and deadlines and stay focused on the most important things. If they need help or clarification on the common goal, they can come to you immediately.
If you don’t set clear goals for them to achieve, it forces your employees to guess what their jobs entail. This can lead to mistakes or miscommunication, which is the last thing you want from people working for you.
When you have open lines of communication with your employees and know their job descriptions well, a lot of stress gets taken off your shoulders because things flow smoothly around the office without a problem.
Vartika Kashyap, the Chief Marketing Officer at ProofHub, a leading team collaboration tool, offers more insight into goal setting.
Employees are empowered to create their own goals in a new goal-setting trend. This gives employees more control over their objectives, resulting in more work being completed. All good managers recognize the need to set clear and realistic expectations, eliminating any uncertainty.
Overtly defining goals is one method to do this. Good managers may set realistic goals and devise tactics to achieve them. Setting attainable goals is one strategy that employs defined, quantifiable, actionable, relevant, and time-based objectives that can be easily translated into practical strategies.
18. Has an Open Door Policy
As a boss, you want to be an approachable and accessible person. This means having a workplace free of barriers—for your employees. Having an open-door policy means that your employees can approach you when they need to without feeling intimidated by their boss’ status or authority. It also allows them to express their concerns freely and know they can do so without reprimanding. In addition, it makes you seem more human and friendly rather than distant or inaccessible.
19. Is Open to New Ideas and Opinions
Having an open mind is a must when working in today’s business environment. Open-minded bosses live and breathe innovation, which means they’re always willing to try new ways to tackle challenges. A good leader will welcome suggestions and input from their subordinates, allowing the boss to get a fresh perspective on things they may have overlooked.
On the other hand, a closed-minded manager may seem rigid or cold. These managers are known for being set in their ways and valuing routine over change. Their reluctance to innovate can cause problems regarding morale and productivity among employees. Employees are less likely to feel inspired if they’re not given opportunities to grow and contribute.
Shahzaib Arshad, the Co-founder, and Editor of TheBalanceWork, shared the following regarding idea-sharing with MatchBuilt.
A good boss is someone who can inspire creativity and new ideas in the workplace. In today’s era of remote working, it’s more important than ever to keep your employees motivated and focused on their work. One way to do this is to encourage creativity and new ideas. A good boss will create an environment where employees feel comfortable sharing their ideas and provide feedback that helps improve those ideas.
Additionally, a good boss will be open to new ways of doing things and always look for ways to improve the workplace. By creating a creative and innovative workplace, a good boss can help to ensure that their employees are always engaged and productive.
20. Is Well Organized
Among other leadership qualities, a good boss is well-organized. Good bosses stay on top of the details and juggle them effectively. They have a system for their work and make sure that the people around them are organized.
Organization requires mental agility and a willingness to be flexible with your methods. If you’re the boss and you’re disorganized, it can be difficult for your people to be organized.
21. Shows Passion for the Work
When you do the work you love, it shows in your attitude and your performance—and that enthusiasm is infectious. Good bosses bring that positive energy to the workplace and encourage their employees to share it.
22. Promotes from Within
When promoting from within, you show your employees that they are valued. Internal promotions will be an incentive for employees to stay with you long-term, and it will also send the message that you trust your employees to handle responsibility. A promotion like this can be a gesture of appreciation for a valued employee’s hard work and excellent performance.
23. Gives Recognition
A good boss makes sure to recognize those who do good work. They will offer praise when an employee does something well. Also, they will give employee recognition to team members who work together well to achieve goals. Positive recognition can come in a variety of ways. A simple certificate, award, or lunch is sometimes all it takes to make your employees feel appreciated.
24. Take Responsibility
A good boss with excellent leadership skills takes responsibility for their actions and their team. It’s easy for people to blame other factors or circumstances when a project doesn’t turn out the way they hoped.
Nothing will make your employees doubt whether you’re a good boss than making excuses for mistakes. If something goes wrong and it was your fault, come clean about it and take responsibility. You may lose some credibility with someone who isn’t accustomed to this, but holding yourself accountable for every failure will encourage them to be more responsible.
25. Instill Trust
Trust is essential to any relationship, including between employee and manager. The best managers will instill trust because they want their employees to be motivated, engaged, and productive. Employees who aren’t confident that their leaders are acting in their best interests may become frustrated or demotivated.
Also, trust increases loyalty. When people trust their bosses, they are more likely to stick with them through thick and thin rather than move jobs every few months or years. This helps companies retain valued staff, so you don’t have to recruit and train new employees – resulting in higher turnover costs.
Jacob Udodov, the Founder and the CEO of Bordio, a project and task management platform, shares the following with MatchBuilt.
A great boss trusts their employees to do a good job and doesn’t use micromanagement to control every aspect of their job.
Instead, a good boss builds a self-sufficient team who can work independently, while they take care of strategic and important tasks/issues. At the same time, such bosses are available should their team need help, and they wouldn’t use it against their employees to mock them for being incapable to do the job.
Why is it Important to be a Good Boss?
To understand why being a good boss is so important, you don’t have to look much further than recent shocking statistics about how bad bosses are crushing employee happiness.
- The No. 1 reason employees are frustrated with their managers is because of unclear communication (31%), followed by micromanagement (27%) and favoritism of other employees (27%).
- Fewer than 1 in 3 workers (32%) say they are expected to respond to employer communication only during normal business hours. The rest are expected to respond before or after work hours, on weekends, or during paid time off.
- Nearly 1 in 5 employees (19%) say they experience personal attacks or unkind remarks from their managers.
- Nearly half of workers (46%) say discrimination, prejudice, and harassment are problems at their workplace.
- Employees cite pay gaps (35%), racism (33%), and sexism (30%) as the three most common issues.
- Although 1 in 3 workers (31%) spend more than four hours a day in meetings, about 1 in 5 (19%) feel uncomfortable taking breaks because their employers may view them as unproductive.
- 1 in 8 employees (13%) say their employer explicitly discourages them from taking breaks.
- About 70% of Americans who work in an office would prefer to work remotely at least some of the time.
- About half of full-time remote workers (47%) do not want to return to an office.
- Although a majority of employees (51%) report more than 15 days of paid time off, about half (49%) use 10 days or fewer each year.
- Roughly half of the employees (48%) don’t use all of their PTO because they are concerned it will have a negative impact on their careers.
- Nearly 1 in 10 workers (9%) don’t receive any PTO. Of those who don’t have PTO, a majority (56%) say it negatively impacts their mental health, and 40% say it causes negative emotions toward their employers.
- Only 24% of employees are offered at least the 12 weeks of paid family leave that experts recommend.
- Nearly half of Americans (46%) receive one month or less of paid parental leave, while 1 in 5 has none at all.
- A majority of workers (56%) would take a salary decrease if it would guarantee they’d be happy at work.
- 1 in 6 employees (16%) would take a pay cut of $20,000 or more.
Leading Traits of a Great Boss and Leadership Summary
In today’s workplace, the ideal boss with effective leadership would be approachable, honest, and interested in the well-being of their employees. Power struggles make for awkward work dynamics and can inhibit employee morale and job satisfaction. Maintaining an open channel of contact with your employees is also essential.
Good bosses are willing to listen to their employees’ ideas and suggestions, which helps foster a sense of teamwork in the office environment.