Best Friends or Mentors? Study Shows How Managers Hope to Be Perceived

Addison Group study shows 63 percent of workers still prefer to be managed by an older colleague

CHICAGO--()--Addison Group (“Addison”), a leading provider of professional staffing services, released today the results of a survey on managers in the workplace. The survey examines the qualities various generations prefer in managers, how generations perceive the importance of the managerial role and Millennials’ appetite for leadership. The survey was conducted by Kelton, a leading global insights firm.

“The generational makeup of today’s workforce is complex and continuously evolving,” said Addison Group CEO Thomas Moran. “The more managers can understand what Boomers, Gen X and Millennials need and want in terms of managerial style, rewards and leadership opportunities, the more successful employees can be, not to mention the benefits employers can reap from an employee retention standpoint.”

Today’s workplace is primarily comprised of members of three generations – Baby Boomers, Generation X and Millennials. Different life events, market circumstances and economic priorities have impacted the way each generation of worker has evolved. The manager/direct report dichotomy that exists within generations (Millennials to Millennials) as well as across generations (Boomers to Millennials) is an area of focus for employers as they work to retain top management talent and ensure collaboration regardless of age.

As a provider of staffing services, Addison is familiar with the needs and expectations of employees across each generation as well as the challenges individuals face in management roles as the workplace continues to change. The survey was commissioned with the goal of gaining better insight into the wants and needs of managers that fall within each generation and to help employers better understand how to provide a work environment that addresses these needs.

The Manager-Employee Relationship: Traditional Setup is Preferred

To understand how managers can better serve employees, the survey examined both how managers hope they are perceived, as well as the qualities employees find valuable in a manager. Managers who foster growth and wellbeing are preferred over those that exhibit authoritarian tendencies.

As managers, people would hope to be perceived as mentors (63%), teachers (35%), supervisors (34%) and coaches (34%). Interestingly, Millennials are twice as likely to hope to be perceived as a best friend to their direct report, compared to Boomers and Gen X (20% vs. 10%).

Most workers agree that some of the most important qualities for the ideal manager include the ability to give honest feedback (63%) and trust them (56%). Many also note an ideal manager makes time for them (37%), is collaborative (36%) and has experience in their field (58%).

Millennials Are Eager to Lead

As Millennials will be the majority generation in the workforce by 2015, more and more of these individuals are filling managerial roles. Of note for employers, 70 percent of workers prefer to oversee someone younger than themselves.

Although 76 percent of Millennials are hesitant to manage a colleague who is older than they are, Millennials are eager to lead. Members of this age group are particularly apt to display some level of interest or excitement in being a manager (82% vs. 57% of other age groups).

What Managers Mean for Professional Development

To attract new candidates to an organization while retaining top talent, employers should work to create a work environment that encourages career development and collaboration. Professional development opportunities are a top consideration for employees in the job search today, and managers are expected to play a role in the process.

For businesses, it’s important to ensure managerial staff is trained to foster professional and career growth for employees. This is especially crucial for Millennial employees, who value a manager’s role in their professional development more than other age groups (36% vs. 26%). Nearly a third (29%) of all workers tie their professional growth to having a manager.

The study, commissioned by Addison Group and executed by leading global insights firm Kelton, surveyed 1,006 working Americans born between 1946 and 1995. For more information, visit

About Addison Group

Addison Group is a leading provider of professional staffing and search services. Bringing the best to the best, Addison combines a national network and localized service for broad reach with a personal touch. Specialized practices deliver the right candidate at the right time in Administration & HR, Engineering, Finance & Accounting, Healthcare, and Information Technology. Addison has received Inavero’s Best of Staffing award for both Client and Candidate service for the past four years. Learn more at


Media Contact:
Addison Group
Martha Kelley Sams, 312.424.0300


Media Contact:
Addison Group
Martha Kelley Sams, 312.424.0300