What employees really want from managers

It can be difficult to know what employees really want from their managers. Different people want different things and as many managers will know it's impossible to make everyone happy all the time.

However, research has found that there are a number of things that nearly all employees want and respond positively to from their managers. This research was summarisied in a book called What People Want by Terry Bacon, an author who has written extensively about employee-manager relationships.

His research found that employees want to see the following qualities in their managers:


Research conducted by Bacon showed that 90% of employees want their managers to be honest.

There are times when managers feel the need to keep information from their employees. It's possible they want to shield them from more stressful developments at work or they don’t want to involve employees in difficult conversations. However, keeping information from employees - especially noticeably - can have a damaging effect on employee engagement and the productivity of staff.

Bacon's research showed that when employees felt their managers were being honest and upfront with them they in turn valued and respected their managers more.

The key to maintaining ‘honesty’ is to create an open and clear channel of communication throughout the entire organisation, from board members down to junior staff. The most effective method of communication in the workplace is through open and transparent discussions and meetings.


89% of the employees surveyed by Bacon said that they wanted to see their managers act fairly. Fairness means treating everyone on an equal footing, regardless of age, experience, background, seniority or how long they have been with the company.

Not only is it disheartening for an employee to see their manager favour a colleague over them. It also damages morale and creates resentment, which in turn can actually hit the business’ profitability hard. Employees who are demoralised are less productive as they are not fully committed to the business, resulting in higher staff turnover.

A good manager will treat everybody equally and hold each person accountable for their actions.

Creating a ‘fair’ working environment, ultimately results in your employees will feel more engaged and respected, two things that result in employees being more productive and efficient.


The third most sought after quality that employees expect from managers is trust. In Bacon's research 86% of the respondents said they wanted to feel they could trust their manager, and that their manager could trust them in return. When managers have the trust of their employees they can inspire and motivate them.

Unfortunately, other research shows that as much as 82% of employees reportedly feel that they don’t trust their managers so this is often a problem for many companies.

Creating trust between a manager and employee takes action and not just words. Managers must be able to prove to their employees that are committed to building trust, by following through on promises with corresponding action. If there is a disconnection between what is being said and what is happening, employees will find it hard to trust their managers.

The good news is that if you focus on being honest and fair with your employees, you'll make it much easier for your employees to trust you and to then be productive and engaged at work.

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