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Image Credit: Image by Sanu A S from Pixabay

Bosses are everywhere in modern life, regardless of the industry or nature of work. There is no doubt that bosses play a role in the running of a company, but how exactly do they affect employees? Do they have an impact on their subordinates’ productivity or well-being? What aspects of bosses have the biggest impact? Does it matter how experienced they are?

A study by Benjamin Artz and his team aimed to determine whether the competence of a boss affects the health and happiness of employees. They defined competence in this case as whether the boss could do an employee’s job or how the boss got their job, with starting the company or rising through the ranks signifying higher competence. Many recent studies have found that workers with higher job satisfaction and happiness are more productive. Supervisors are responsible for making many leadership and organizational decisions, which likely have an effect on their employees. Finding a relationship between a boss’s competence level and their employees’ well-being could help explain the quality of life, and therefore the productivity, of the workers.

Previous studies have focused on how bosses affect productivity and have found that happier employees are more productive and higher employee trust in bosses is linked to positive work outcomes. This study conducted by Artz and his group is the first to directly connect a boss’s competence and worker well-being. It also considers specific variables that have not been previously studied, such as whether the boss rose through the ranks in the company and whether the boss can do their employee’s job or not.

This study is an observational study, which means that it is based on observation through experiments, rather than theories. Observational studies don’t allow researchers to make definite conclusions about what causes an observation, but can offer insight about likely causes. The researchers developed a series of formulas to understand workers’ efficiency and how supervisors can alter it. Using these formulas, they were able to consider the many different outcomes of different scenarios.

For instance, scenarios where the boss is an expert versus a non-expert can be simulated with these formulas and directly compared to see which kind of boss leads to better outcomes. In this case, a non-expert supervisor refers to a boss who does not completely understand the work and workplace, and an expert supervisor refers to a boss who is experienced and knowledgeable about the worker’s job and environment. The equations developed by the researchers can be used to compare the workers’ productivity with a non-expert boss and an expert boss.

The researchers compiled data from surveys conducted in previous years. Around 6000 random workers in the United States were asked “How do/did you feel about the job you have now/your most recent job?”. They then answered on a scale from 1 to 4, with 1 meaning they disliked it very much and 4 meaning they liked it very much. These answers were compared to a long list of variables about the supervisor, such as age, gender, education, experience, salary, and competence.

In order to determine whether the competence of bosses affects their employees’ job satisfaction, the researchers evaluated data from a different survey. In this survey, 1600 British workers were asked to rank their job satisfaction on a scale from 1 to 7, in which 1 meant “completely dissatisfied” and 7 meant “completely satisfied”. They were also asked “How true is it that your supervisor could do your job if you were away?” and “How true is it that your supervisor or manager knows their own job well?”. Their answers were on a scale from 1 to 4, with 1 meaning “not at all true” and 4 meaning “very true”.

The formulas designed by the researchers show that expert bosses lead to better outcomes, therefore an experienced supervisor would benefit the employees. The first survey data results showed that higher job satisfaction values correlated with a boss rising through the ranks within the company or starting the company. The second survey data revealed that, on average, employees believe that their supervisor could not do the job of the workers. Employees who indicated that their supervisor could fill in for them and is capable of performing their own job well were overall more satisfied with their jobs.

In order to confirm that a boss’s competence was the reason behind job satisfaction ratings, the researchers standardized the data to account for potential alternate reasons, such as education, tenure, and industry. They compiled the results into a graph to analyze them and found that it clearly showed supervisor competence has the largest effect on job satisfaction.

In conclusion, a highly competent boss is linked to higher employee job satisfaction and quality of life. Skilled and experienced bosses positively impact the health and happiness of employees and encourage higher productivity. This finding is deeply relevant to nearly every field of study and business. CEOs and human resources managers can make better hiring or promoting decisions by considering the competence of the candidates as bosses. This will not only increase efficiency and growth of the company, but also significantly improve the lives of workers.

Study Information

Original study: Boss Competence and Worker Well-Being

Study published on: May 16, 2016

Study author(s): Benjamin Artz, Amanda H Goodall, Andrew J Oswald

The study was done at: City University London (UK), University of Wisconsin at Oshkosh (USA), University of Warwick (UK)

The study was funded by: No funding source reported

Raw data availability: Not applicable

Featured image credit: Image by Sanu A S from Pixabay