HR Strange But True

Can Your Boss Do Your Job?

Think about all the aspects your role entails, and then ask yourself if your direct supervisor can perform your job. What’s the answer? If you said “no,”  chances are, you hate your job—at least that’s what Harvard Business Review (HBR) is implying with newly released research.

Boss reading

According to HBR, if your boss can do your job, you’re more likely to be happy at work. How did HBR figure this out? First, it measured “boss competence” using the following metrics:

  • Whether the supervisor could, if necessary, do the employee’s job
  • Whether the supervisor worked his or her way up inside the company
  • The supervisor’s level of technical competence as assessed by a worker

HBR researchers then studied 35,000 randomly selected employees and workplaces across the United States and Britain. Using traditional survey questions, HBR researchers asked survey respondents to scale how much they liked their jobs. In the United States, respondents, on average, scaled their satisfaction at a 3.2(out of 4)—meaning they like their jobs fairly well. In Britain, the average overall satisfaction rating was 5.3 (out of 7), meaning in Britain they like their jobs a little bit better than we do in the United States.

HRB looked at the data further and found that: “The benefit of having a highly competent boss is easily the largest positive influence on a typical worker’s level of job satisfaction.” The research shows that U.S. workers think having a competent boss is more important to their satisfaction than their salary.

HRB says, “Although we found that many factors can matter for happiness at work—type of occupation, level of education, tenure, and industry are also significant, for instance—they don’t even come close to mattering as much as the boss’s technical competence.” The bottom line, HBR says, is that employees are happiest when their boss knows what he or she is talking about—and a happy employee is a productive employee in turn.

HBR offers this sage wisdom: “The boss casts a very long shadow. Your job satisfaction is profoundly molded by your boss’s competence; and your own team’s job satisfaction levels depend on your competence.” With that being said, can your boss do your job?

Melissa BlazejakMelissa Blazejak is a Senior Web Content Editor at BLR. She has written articles for and the HR Daily Advisor websites and is responsible for the day-to-day management of and She has been at BLR since 2014. She graduated with a BA of Science, specializing in Communication, from Eastern Connecticut State University in 2008. Most recently, she graduated in 2014 with a MS of Educational Technology.