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Top 10 Traits Today's Employees Want in a Manager

In the modern workplace, the most effective managers are equal parts leader, coach, mentor, and advocate. Creating an environment that encourages this type of management style may seem like a tall order, but putting the work in to train, support, and build a great leadership team will pay off in a variety of ways. In fact, good managers have the ability to convert a group of individual employees into a resilient and creative team—one that can positively impact your company’s culture, encourage innovation, and increase your bottom line for years to come.

Here are the top 10 traits today’s employees are looking for in a manager, and recommendations for how you can work those into your company’s management profile.

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Empathetic Leader

A manager who leads with empathy and demonstrates respect and support for their employees is a hot commodity in the modern workplace. Going beyond simply understanding the day-to-day duties of their team members, the empathetic manager proactively asks questions and seeks information to view issues and situations from the employee’s perspective, according to Harvard Business Review’s survey of approximately 4,000 employees, managers, and HR leaders.

Become a more empathetic leader:

  • Give employees your full attention in conversations and meetings.
  • Acknowledge employees’ emotions and demonstrate compassion.
  • Recognize and respect that employees have lives outside of the office and do what you can to support their overall health and wellness.
  • Proactively learn about each team members’ needs and goals.
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Motivational Coach

Though an authoritative management style may fit some organizations—the military, for example—most employees do not thrive under this type of leadership. Managers who adopt more of a coaching style, however, can motivate and mentor employees and help them develop professionally by offering constructive, actionable feedback.

“A great manager (like a great coach) can take a good worker and make them great, or take an average worker and make them good,” according to The Atlantic’sSay Goodbye to Your Manager: The pandemic has exposed a fundamental weakness in the system” by Ed Zitro.

Inspire and empower your team:

  • Give employees constructive feedback.
  • Encourage team members to learn from each other.
  • Allow employees to learn from their mistakes.
  • Give advice but let your employees come to their own decisions.
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Career Mentor

Employees of all ages want to feel that their managers care about their professional development—not just about the results they can generate. People crave feedback, according to the Business Insider’sGoogle tried to prove managers don't matter. Instead, it discovered 10 traits of the very best ones.” Employees work to bring meaning into their lives, and purpose comes from personal growth and development.

Managers who nurture their employees' careers and provide clear pathways for growth build stronger teams and help develop future leaders. In turn, employees who have the tools they need to thrive are more likely to stay with a company and contribute to its long-term success.

Encourage mentorships:

  • Take time to learn about each team member’s strengths and weaknesses and create a job strategy around those traits.
  • Identify and promote training opportunities.
  • Consider reverse-mentoring opportunities, where younger employees mentor older employees on the latest technologies.
  • Develop mentoring circles within your team and organization.
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It’s safe to assume that few employees thrive in a micromanaged workplace culture. Interestingly, according to Gallup’s “The Ultimate Guide to Micromanagers: Signs, Causes, Solutions” by Ben Wigert And Ryan Pendell, the modern micromanager is not necessarily someone who wanders the office with a clipboard, peering into cubicles to make sure employees are not playing Solitaire on their computers. “Today's micromanager is likely someone who wants it done exactly their way but provides little context, support, help or advice,” they write.

Avoid micromanagement:

  • When assigning employees tasks or responsibilities, provide full context and offer support throughout the process.
  • Demonstrate trust by allowing employees to make decisions and supporting the outcomes.
  • Take accountability for your actions when you make mistakes.
  • When upper management praises your work, share the accolades with your team.
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Inclusive Team Builder

A good manager recognizes the power of nurturing a diverse and inclusive environment rooted in teamwork. Research shows that teams comprising different races, genders, educational levels, cultures, generations, and backgrounds spur ideas, debate, creativity, energy, excitement, and a sense of friendly competition that can advance productivity and performance. However, only 59% of 4,000 employees surveyed in the 2021 Gartner Hybrid Work Employee Survey believe their work environment includes a diverse set of employee needs and preferences.

Build an inclusive team:

  • Encourage all team members to share their thoughts and opinions freely, so everyone feels heard and all ideas are on the table.
  • Work with your organization’s recruiters to seek candidates with diverse backgrounds and skills and then train your leadership on the benefits of having a diverse and inclusive workforce.
  • Ensure your commitment to a workplace free of unconscious bias and sexual harassment, through proper training and ongoing communication.
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Empowerment Architect

It may feel counterintuitive at times but granting employees the autonomy to make decisions and operate without oversight can increase your team’s overall productivity, inspire personal growth, and improve self-esteem. Research conducted by Gretchen Spreitzer, a professor and employee empowerment and leadership development researcher at the University of Michigan’s Ross School of Business, shows that empowered employees have higher job satisfaction and organizational commitment, which reduces turnover and increases performance and motivation.

Empower your employees:

  • Delegate assignments and responsibilities and give employees the latitude to carry out tasks.
  • Provide your team members with the tools and resources they need to successfully complete their work.
  • Communicate your organization’s vision and goals and gather feedback from employees on how your team can contribute.
  • Publicly recognize employees for their hard work and accomplishments.
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Communications Guru

A number of surveys indicate that employees want transparency and open communication from their managers. The most effective managers communicate often—in a variety of ways. They also listen to their employees, encouraging them to ask questions and share feedback without hesitation.

Employees often want to feel that they have a voice when it comes to their work or work environment, which is why it's important that every member of your team feels comfortable talking openly and honestly with you and other members of the management team. Great leaders go to great lengths to make sure their employees feel comfortable voicing their opinions, ideas, and concerns.

Communicate more effectively:

  • Hold regular team meetings.
  • Provide frequent email updates.
  • Schedule one-on-one check-in sessions as needed.
  • Practice active listening.
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Accountable Teammate

Good leaders share in their team's successes and provide constructive criticism and troubleshooting advice when there are mistakes or failures. In the LinkedIn article, "11 Qualities All Great Managers Possess," Ilya Pozin says that managers with strong accountability qualities will report why something didn't go according to plan, and then will work toward finding a solution. This, in turn, tends to influence the rest of the team to be accountable for their role and results.

The opposite behavior can damage a team. "Nobody likes being thrown under the bus and it can feel especially traitorous when a manager does it to their employees," according to G&A Partners' "The 7 Things Great Managers Do Differently." "Employees who don't feel like their manager will back them up have no reason to speak up or be innovative, and instead will simply adhere to the status quo."

Take responsibility and encourage feedback:

  • Lead by example—hold yourself accountable first.
  • Don’t procrastinate—tackle issues as they arise.
  • Seek feedback from your employees on how you can improve as a manager.
  • Take an honest look at yourself—and your team—and identify what needs to change. Then act.
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Wise Decision-Maker

Managers who make timely decisions based on the best information at hand keep the team’s wheels turning and inspire confidence in their employees. Zety’s survey of more than 1,000 American employees found that decision-making is high on the list of what employees value in a manager, and that trait also holds a high position on the list of attributes that their managers lack most.

“One way to increase your likelihood of success is to include your team in the process,” according to Harvard Business School’s “Why Managers Should Involve Their Team In The Decision-Making Process” by Lauren Landry. “Research shows that diversity leads to better decision-making. By bringing people into the conversation with different disciplinary and cultural backgrounds, you can enhance creativity and gain a fresh perspective on the task or problem at hand.”

Improve your decision-making skills:

  • Remove emotion from the process (as much as possible).
  • Screen out distractions and focus on the decision at hand.
  • Consider input and feedback from employees.
  • Share your decisions with your team members and report on the outcomes.
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Steadfast Supporter

When managers let employees know that their health and wellbeing are a priority—in addition to their work performance—they are more inspired and productive individuals at home and on the job. “As companies have expanded the support they offer to their employees in areas like mental health and childcare during the pandemic, the relationships between employees and their managers have started to shift to be more emotional and supportive,” according to the Harvard Business Review survey.

Go above and beyond to support your team:

  • Be open to flexible work options that work for your team.
  • Communicate often.
  • Check in with employees and offer support and resources when needed.
  • Learn to recognize signs of stress, burnout, and disengagement, and consider the ways in which you can prevent them.

How G&A Can Help

G&A Partners offers access to HR experts with years of experience helping businesses develop their employees, improve their workplace cultures, implement new HR processes and procedures, and more. Schedule a consultation with one of our trusted business advisors to learn more.

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