What Do Managers Need Most? More Time and a Space to Be Vulnerable

Organizations expect a lot from their managers. After all, they have a significant impact on the company culture, are often champions and executors of change, and bear outsized responsibility for their teams’ success and failure. And on top of that, the manager’s role is significantly evolving. Let’s talk about vulnerability in the workplace.

When we are asking a lot of this particular group, how do we know that we are providing them with the right tools and resources to succeed? As organizations are increasingly implementing and improving their continuous listening programs, it’s essential to ask managers for input on how the organization can better support them and help them thrive for their unique needs.   

To help, QuestionPro Workforce created a survey measure with the specific purpose of better understanding Manager Experience, intended to help organizations identify their strengths as well as avenues for improvement in order to help managers be more effective and feel more fulfilled.

The survey includes questions about the growth and development of teams and how well organizations enable leaders in that area; leaders’ own growth and development; vision, their teams’ goals and resources to achieve them; autonomy and trust; and, of course, wellbeing. These questions are designed not as a self-evaluation of leaders that may be part of a 360 feedback process, but as feedback from managers to the organizations – a very important piece of the puzzle for companies looking to elevate their culture to one where all employees thrive – those in a leadership position and those on their way to one. 

What are we seeing in the market?

If you are one of the many organizations we hope will leverage this survey, we wanted to provide you with an idea of what is going on in the market. In July 2022, we surveyed 100 managers across the United States, and found that the vast majority of, or 87% of managers believe their team’s goals are achievable.

On the other hand, the greatest area of opportunity for organizations was to create a culture where managers felt like they can display vulnerability in the workplace, with only 50% saying that they feel comfortable being vulnerable in front of others in the workplace.

  • Growth & Development Of Teams

We first asked managers about the growth and development of their teams. While the growth and development of teams are often not line items in job descriptions, many successful leaders would say that this is one of the most important parts of their job. 

growth and development of teams

Although it was encouraging to see that an overwhelming majority of managers (83%) agreed that the growth and development of their teams is one of their main responsibilities, fewer said they have access to the right resources to help their team members grow and develop (70%), and even fewer said that they have the necessary time to develop their team on an ongoing basis (61%). 

  • Leader’s Own Growth & Development

Organizations seem to have an even bigger opportunity to improve their managers’ own experience with growth and development. Only 69% of managers said that the organization provides them with the right opportunities to develop as a leader and only 65% agreed that there are professional challenges inside their organization they find exciting. 

leaders dont have enough time for development

What seemed to be lacking the most, again, was time. Just over half (55%) of managers said they have enough time during working hours that they use for their professional growth and development. While as we previously mentioned, the majority of managers said their team’s objectives are achievable, it’s becoming clear that they are not accounting for having the time or capacity to include necessary growth and development activities while achieving their business objectives. 

  • Goals, Capacity & Resources

Again it was reassuring that the vast majority (87%) of managers said they believed their teams goals and objectives were achievable, only 80% said they were involved in setting those goals and only 75% said they were involved in setting the vision for themselves and their teams. 

growth and resources of leaders - Vulnerability in the Workplace for Managers

However, what again emerged as the largest challenge in our sample of managers was time: only 61% of managers agreed that they have enough time to do the work being asked of them, and 60% saying that their team was large enough to do the work being asked of it. 

  • Autonomy & Trust

Despite a crunch for time and resources, 77% of managers reported that they trust their teams to get their jobs done. Yet, only 69% said that their company culture makes it easy for them to provide their team members with autonomy. A larger gap, perhaps related, was in the degree to which managers feel supported by their own manager, something many organizational psychologists would argue is key to thriving in one’s role, on par with having achievable goals. Only 66% of managers in our sample said they feel supported by their own manager.

autonomy and trust of leaders - Vulnerability in the Workplace

  • Wellbeing & The Whole Person Experience

One of the key aspects organizations are promoting today is wellbeing and the whole person experience, and with that we found it critical to include this as well in the manager experience survey. Only 50% of managers said they are comfortable being showing vulnerability in the workplace, and only 64% agreed that their team members seem comfortable being vulnerable in front of them. 

Vulnerability in the Workplace for Managers and person experience managers

It seems that while work/life blend is being increasingly advocated for, many organizations still have an opportunity to create a culture where their people, especially managers, really feel like they can show up as their whole selves. 

The Path Ahead for Vulnerability in the Workplace

If you ask your manager to take this survey and see some similar responses we saw inside your organization, what should you do? It will be important to take the time and audit the reading and development resources that managers are given to make sure that what is provided is actually aligned with their current needs. Oftentimes, especially during the pandemic, the content and style of delivery of training and development programs have been outdated and could use a refresh. Especially when we’re talking about the concept of vulnerability in the workplace.

Many organizations are also starting to experiment with employee-led training, which has many benefits as it allows employees to choose which trainings to partake in, and when, making both the content and the timing more suitable to their schedule. However, a threat that they will still often lose sight of partaking in them as a result of competing priorities exists. 

Including development as a more formal goal would certainly help managers allocate more time towards it when faced with competing priorities. And having continuous conversations with them as you iterate the strategy will help assure that the changes you are making will have the best impact on creating a culture where managers can thrive. 

Ready to create a workplace culture where everyone can reach their full potential? Learn more about how to get ongoing feedback from your employees and start taking action to make a positive impact in your organization with QuestionPro Workforce.