A 10% Raise or a Great Boss — Which Would You Take?

According to a recent management study, 56% of employees would turn down a 10% raise to stay with a great boss.

Does this somewhat contrarian finding surprise me? Actually… about as much as if you told me the sun will rise in the east tomorrow.

Why? Simply put, because management matters. Manager-employee relationships matter. A good manager can make a bad job tolerable, and a bad manager can make a good job miserable.

As much as money naturally matters to employees, 56% would walk away from a fair amount of it to stay with a boss they like and trust. This is a key finding from an insightful new study from Ultimate Software exploring the relationships between managers and employees, including some significant disconnects.

This subject has long interested me, as I believe such relationships are critical to successful management but frequently underestimated by the “powers that be” when it comes to management selection. Companies often choose managers for the wrong reasons – for example, attributes like authority and technical prowess rather than the ability to forge productive relationships.

Overconfident And Undertrained

As the old saying goes, “people leave managers, not companies.” A slight exaggeration perhaps, but there’s definitely truth to it. Managers who have no idea how to forge effective relationships with their employees often find themselves at a decided disadvantage in the “results” game. And at the end of the day successful management is all about getting productive results. Management is nothing if not results-oriented.

Let’s review several other data points from the Ultimate Software survey. What they show is that management is by no means an easy job.

45% of managers have never received formal management training.  This isn’t surprising, as many companies have jettisoned such training programs to cut costs. It also poses persistent challenges; it encourages a feeling that anyone can be a manager… when it actually requires a complex skill set.

80% of managers say they’re transparent with direct reports, while 55% of employees feel that way.

71% of managers say they know how to motivate their team, compared to 44% of employees who say their manager can motivate them. Personally, I was surprised that these last two figures (on transparency and motivation) weren’t more disconnected than they are. 

Despite these substantive issues, only 16% of managers admit “they frequently make mistakes.”

In short, in the management world there’s a sizable gap between experience and reality. Managers tend to think they’re doing OK while employees think something quite the opposite. Which contributes to national employee engagement levels chronically mired in the 30% range. Which is exactly why excellent managers are both hard to come by and extremely valuable to organizations.

How do readers feel about this message, and the headline at the top? I believe it’s a fascinating question: Would you turn down a 10% raise to stay with a great boss?

This article first appeared at Forbes.com.

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