Why Your Direct Manager is the Real Boss… And Not Your CEO

June 15, 2016 Jiordan Castle

the real boss

If you search your current company on Glassdoor, you’ll probably be greeted by 3 visuals: your CEO’s photo, their current approval rating, and what percentage of employees would recommend the company to a friend. Given the glaring greens and reds — not to mention the numbers — Glassdoor can either be a source of pride or a sore spot for companies.


But what role does CEO approval play in the granular, everyday Worker Experience of employees in a company? Many of us, at one time or another, have worked somewhere where the approval rating of the CEO didn’t quite match the approval rating we’d give our boss. What matters more is the relationship you have with your direct manager — the person responsible for approving your PTO requests, doling out daily tasks, and (ideally) going to bat for you when it comes to projects and promotions.

Your interactions with the CEO, on the other hand, may be limited to quarterly company meetings and quotes attributed to them on your LinkedIn newsfeed. Regardless of the press your CEO receives, what matters most to you and your coworkers is the Worker Experience provided by your immediate supervisor.

People + technology + process = your Worker Experience

Workers have more options than they’ve had in recent years. In 2016, it’s a job seeker’s market, with sites like Glassdoor and LinkedIn enabling us to not only find new, relevant positions, but also to compare employers as thoroughly as we do cars. What sets a company apart doesn’t begin and end at the top; it’s every political act therein. How quickly can I expect to be promoted? How does my prospective team feel about their manager? Will I have time to spend with my French Bulldog? These are questions we can answer through the magic of the internet. And while many of us can learn to work with sullen coworkers or a millennial CEO, the truest test we face is that of our direct manager. How am I similar to this person? How are we different? As a manager, do they have my best interests at heart? Or will they take credit for my ideas? This is a familiar inner monologue to most job seekers today. (Or those workers looking for a new job or a complete career switch.)


It’s reasonable to have these questions. We think this way because we all know that work is other people — not just technology and process and paperwork. Your boss and teammates can make or break your experience. Collectively, the people you work with every day can act as either trampoline, propelling you upward, or cartoon anvil, holding you down.

Millennials and motivation

Managers can breathe a sigh of relief for one key reason: employees alone are responsible for the why of why they work where they work. What motivates you? Why do work for company XYZ? These questions are yours to answer, not your manager’s.

But the conversation doesn’t end there. Millennials — the largest part of today’s workforce — are very vocal about one of their top priorities at work: a mission they can believe in. Millennials work for a purpose and decent pay. What managers are responsible for is facilitating an environment in which their direct reports feel they matter, have access to the tools they need to get the job done, and have a certain degree of autonomy. In the simplest of terms: your CEO is responsible for putting the right culture and leadership in place; you and your manager are responsible for all the rest.


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