Your role in your employee’s happiness

It’s long been clear the importance a supervisor plays in employee’s happiness. A bad one will drive good employees away and a good one will keep people happy. It’s more important than salary or almost any other factor in keeping your best workers.

A new study from the National Bureau of Economic Research underscores the outsized role that a supervisor plays in not only employees’ job satisfaction, but their overall happiness inside and outside the job. 

The big difference: whether employees see their supervisor as a “boss” or a “partner” – someone who values their input and thoughts on the job at hand. This difference is especially pronounced with middle-aged workers. According to the study’s authors, satisfaction for those employees that see their supervisor as a partner is 0.4 points higher on a 10-point scale – the equivalent in happiness of a doubling in household income.

Generally speaking, most people’s satisfaction follows a curve during their adult life that declines through their 20s, 30s and 40s. It flattens out for the 40s and 50s, before finally recovering in the late 50s and increasing through the 60s as people retire and leave their jobs. At every age group, those with “partner” supervisors are happier than those with “boss” supervisors – and the middle-aged decline is satisfaction is much less pronounced.

The research is based on the Gallup-Healthways poll, a daily poll that surveys hundreds of people on a variety of topics. The researchers pooled millions of responses over several years to plot the satisfaction ratings.

Other studies have shown improved health and increased productivity from a supervisor that values employee input. Workplaces that don’t have an underlying culture of trust usually devolve to one of “every employee for himself.” Employees become reluctant to help other associates because they don’t know if that effort will be recognized or appreciated.

So how do you balance the need to lead and manage with the goal of creating a culture of trust and cooperation? Encourage employees to share their thoughts, to challenge in the appropriate setting and make decisions when appropriate. Some other thoughts based on what we’ve seen from some of the top dealers through the Top 100 program:

• Implement 360-degree evaluations. Not only have managers give annual evaluations to employees, but have employees do the same for managers. 

• Build cross-trained teams across departments. Not only does it help various departments understand what others do, it can help give you key backups in busy times or if someone has to take a leave for illness or other emergency.

Let employees make decisions. Not every decision has to be made by the owner. For example, empower employees to solve a customer service issue if it will cost less than $100.

Share information. Be open with key employees about the status of the company. During the last recession, the best companies were open about the challenges facing them and encouraged employees to come up with cost-cutting ideas to help stay afloat.

• Celebrate success. When something good happens or someone has a great idea that helps improve operations, share the news. It will encourage employees to continue sharing their best ideas.

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Want to read more about how the best dealers keep their employees happy and loyal? Be sure to check out Boating and the January issue of Boating Industry, where we’ll share best practices from the Boating Industry Top 100. The 2018 Top 100 will be revealed Dec. 12 at the Boating Industry Top 100 Gala in Orlando. 

Jonathan Sweet is the director of the Boating Industry Top 100 program and former editor-in-chief of Boating Industry magazine. He can be reached at or 763-383-4419. 

Follow him on Twitter at @JonathanWSweet.


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