Brunswick Review Issue 13

Most employees don't want to be the boss

Brunswick Insight survey results show that most employees have no interest in the top job

Chief executives could be forgiven for thinking that everyone wants their job. The executives who work nearest them, after all, often do aspire to the corner office. Doesn’t everybody want to be the boss? Actually, no. A Brunswick Insight survey of employees around the world – 42,956 of them – found most of them had no interest in running the show.

The respondents were asked to identify which of seven factors they valued most in a job: pay, security, work-life balance, job enjoyment, status and authority, making a difference, or “doing something you personally enjoy.” Of those items, the one that mattered least to them? Having status or authority.

How to explain that? It could be that the desire for status and authority is something that people harbor secretly, hiding it even from themselves (the survey was anonymous), because hunger for power isn’t exactly hailed as a virtue.

It could also be that many in power never hungered for status or authority.

 

At a time when class divisions are upending elections, and when resentment against the so-called 1 percent remains palpable, status and authority may be all the more unfashionable in some circles. Certainly, many die-hard union members have always shunned any offers of promotions to management (although campaigns for elected union positions can be vicious).

It may be humbling for some top executives to learn that most employees don’t want their job. This suggests, after all, that chief executives aren’t necessarily their companies’ smartest or most talented employees. Rather, they’re the smartest and most talented employees who wanted, or anyway agreed to take, the job. But that also means, happily, that talent and brilliance may be found at every level of an organization.

Another interpretation of the survey finding is that rank-and-file workers recognize that status and authority often come with longer hours and possibly endless travel. At a time when top executives are posting online photographs of their visits to offices around the world, the homebodies among their workforce may feel anything but envy. After all, the item that respondents said matters most to them was work-life balance. In second place came job enjoyment. Pay ranked third.

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