June 20, 2022
Between a global pandemic, greater focus on diversity and inclusion, a supply chain crunch and sky-high inflation, it’s no surprise strong senior leadership – one of the most important factors in overall employee satisfaction – matters more than ever. Glassdoor examined hundreds of thousands of our employee reviews to find out what good management means to the employees who experience it – and those who don’t.
To conduct this research, we analysed more than 300,000 reviews left by UK, France and Germany-based employees between 20 April 2021 and 19 April 2022. We looked at individual company ratings for senior leadership, as shown in Tables 1-3 below.
|Ranking||Company Name||Average Senior Leadership Rating||Industry|
|2||GTB||4.6||Advertising & PR|
|5||Taboola||4.5||Advertising & PR|
|14||Auto Trader UK||4.4||Tech|
|16||John Clark Motor Group||4.4||Auto|
|17||Sky Betting & Gaming||4.4||Tech|
|20||The Gym Group||4.3||Recreation|
|23||Bain & Company||4.3||Consulting|
|25||Anglian Home Improvements||4.3||Manufacturing|
Tech is the most prevalent industry, making up about a third of the list. Still, a multitude of other sectors are represented, including HR, hospitality, consulting, construction and utilities, demonstrating that good management can exist in any sector. Nine of the listed companies also feature on this year’s list of Best Places to Work in the UK, including #1 company, ServiceNow, underlining the importance of strong senior leadership to an enjoyable workplace.
These companies’ reviews call out broader leadership’s transparency and management skills but also praise their direct managers. These companies’ reviews highlight broader leadership’s transparency and management skills but also praise their direct managers. The latter often impact employee experience just as much as those at the top – showing the value of ensuring good management throughout the company and not just in the C-suite. While international companies including Salesforce, Bain & Co and MongoDB make our list, 72 percent of the listed companies are UK-headquartered.
|Ranking||Company Name||Average Senior Leadership Rating||Industry|
|4||Tape à l'Oeil||4.4||Retail|
|8||AXA / France||4.2||Insurance|
|21||bioMérieux||4.0||Pharmaceutical & Biotechnology|
In France, tech again represents the most common industry on the list, but consulting, manufacturing, and retail also make multiple appearances. Thirteen companies on the list – more than half – appeared as well in Glassdoor’s 2022 Best Places to Work in France. Employees of these companies describe the closeness and proximity of their senior management, describing them as caring and respectful of their autonomy – rather than hostile and micromanaging.
|Ranking||Company Name||Average Senior Leadership Rating||Industry|
|6||Boston Consulting Group||4.1||Consulting|
|10||European Central Bank||4.0||Finance/Government|
|12||MHP - A Porsche Company||3.9||Tech|
|17||Merck KGaA||3.8||Pharmaceutical & Biotechnology|
|18||DLR||3.8||Aerospace & Defence|
Germany’s list reflects the strong manufacturing sector in the country, representing nearly a fifth of the companies on the list.
Only one company appears across all three lists – Salesforce, headquartered in San Francisco, California, and a frequent presence in global Best Places to Work lists.
To explore how employees experience management in their workplaces, we examined nearly half a million reviews left by UK (367,000), France (83,000) and Germany (37,000) based employees between 20 April 2021 and 19 April 2022. We looked at three categories of reviews for each country: strong management (reviews where senior leadership received a 5 out of 5), weak management (senior leadership received a 1 out of 5) and all reviews.
Universally, we found that while management is a popular topic of discussion, a poor management team is much more noticeable and makes a deeper impression than a strong one. In UK reviews, the word management is twice as likely to be mentioned negatively (appearing in 13.0 percent of reviews) than positively (6.3 percent). French reviews see the same pattern, with negative mentions of management appearing in 7.4 percent of reviews versus 3.7 percent in positive mentions. In comparison, German reviews feature the word less often but even more negatively (with negative mentions appearing in 2.1 percent of all reviews versus 0.6 percent for positive appearances).
This pattern becomes even starker when examining only reviews highlighting strong or poor senior leadership. In strong leadership reviews in the UK, management features in 15.8 percent of reviews – but it appears in nearly half (44.1 percent) of those with weak leadership! Similarly, 9.0 percent and 2.2 percent of strong leadership reviews in France and Germany, respectively, mention management, versus 24.7 percent and 8.0 percent of reviews with poor leadership.
These findings underscore the salience of weak leadership. Management always matters for employees, but it especially stands out when it is poor. This is not at all surprising, given that behavioural economists and psychologists have repeatedly found that humans tend to focus on negative experiences far more than positive ones.
Next, we examined the nearest meaningful word (excluding words that convey little meaning like the, and, or, and so on) to management-related words (management, manager/s, and leadership, or their local translations). These co-occurring words can shed light on employees’ objective experiences with their management, as well as their subjective perceptions of these same experiences.
In UK reviews with strong leadership, the most frequent co-occuring words included friendly (which appeared in 14.1 percent of highly-rated reviews), support/supportive (11.9 and 9.6 percent, respectively), flexible (9.9 percent), nice (6.3 percent) , and approachable (2.3 percent). Weak leadership was described using the words poor (16.2 percent of poor leadership reviews), bully (8.3 percent), rude (3.3 percent), and micro-managing (1.7 percent).
A similar analysis of French reviews revealed ecoute/r (to listen or listening, 9.6 percent), autonomie (autonomy, 5.9 percent), bienveillant/bienveillance (caring, 3.2 percent/4.9 percent respectively), and excellent (2.6 percent) as the most frequent co-occurring words in strong reviews, and pression (pressure, stress, 9.3 percent), mauvais (bad, 9.0 percent), toxique (toxic, 2.6 percent), catastrophique (catastrophic, 1.4 percent), and micro-management (0.5 percent) in reviews with poor leadership.
These words reveal that companies with strong leadership strike a delicate balance between supporting their employees in their work and providing them flexibility and autonomy – themes that have come up frequently in other research conducted by Glassdoor. Employees especially dislike micro-management, bullying or rudeness – which might seem obvious but remains a perennial problem at many workplaces, indicating that leadership should focus their energies on ensuring these incidents don’t occur.
Finally, we investigated synonyms of management-related words. To do so, we used Word2Vec, a technique created by Google that employs a neural network to transform words into vectors – or sequences of numbers – that represent the semantic meaning of those words based on how they are used in a set of documents.
This technique allows us to find words with similar usage in Glassdoor reviews. Training the model separately on reviews with poor and strong leadership ratings can provide insight into each type of management by examining which words have similar meanings to management in each set of reviews. The table below shows the words we found with the most similar meaning to management and/or leadership.
|Management Synonyms||Leadership Synonyms|
|Country of Reviews||Reviews with Strong Leadership Ratings||Reviews with Poor Leadership Ratings||Reviews with Strong Leadership Ratings||Reviews with Poor Leadership Ratings|
|UK||Dependable, easygoing||Neglectful, unappreciative||Collegial, courageous||Directionless, disconnection|
|France||inclusif/ve (inclusive), ouvert (open)||Amateurisme (amateur), extrême, malveillant (malicious)||N/A||N/A|
|Germany||hilfreich (helpful), motivierend (motivating)||Produkt (product), marketing, strategie (strategy), hr||N/A||N/A|
These words indicate that UK employees want their management – which can refer to direct or senior – to ensure an enjoyable atmosphere at work. But they also want their leadership – which tends to refer more to senior management at a company – to take a stand and provide a strong direction for the company.
Befitting a work culture known for its focus on rules and directness, German employees focus more on practical rather than atmospheric aspects, describing management as helpful and motivating when experiencing strong leadership, and instead focusing on specific parts of the business (such as product or HR) in reviews with weak leadership ratings. French employees with strong leadership, on the other hand, focus on the openness of their management – a stark contrast to the often strongly hierarchical and closed-off nature of many French workplaces and management practices. Those with weak leadership use the strongest phrasing of any of the countries, describing management as malicious, extreme or even evil.
Using hundreds of thousands of Glassdoor senior leadership ratings, we found the top companies for senior leadership rated by employees in the UK, France, and Germany. The list contained a diverse array of industries, though tech was the most common. Many Glassdoor Best Places to Work companies showed up on all three lists, underlining how strong senior leadership filters down to everyday employee experience at their workplace.
We also analysed reviews to examine how employees experience both strong and weak management in their workplaces. Across the UK, France and Germany, we found that management matters much more when it’s weak, reflecting humans’ natural negativity bias – implying that even a few negative experiences with management may make a significant difference to their employees.
Workers with strong leadership used words like courageous, flexible, autonomy, supportive and approachable, while those with weak leadership associated their management with words like bully, toxic, directionless and micro(-managing). Management should therefore focus on allowing their employees as much flexibility and autonomy as possible while still checking in to offer support and direction when needed. Strong senior leadership, in particular, focuses on ensuring a collegial and connected atmosphere throughout the company while offering a solid vision and direction for employees to work towards. While easier said than done, many of the companies featured here manage to strike this balance.
The UK Top Companies rankings were compiled from more than 213,000 senior leadership ratings on Glassdoor from UK-based full- and part-time employees between 20 April 2021 and 19 April 2022. Only current or former employees who left their jobs in 2021 or 2022 were included. The rankings included only companies with at least 1000 global employees and 30 senior leadership ratings in the time period considered. Ratings extend to ten decimal places for ranking purposes.
We followed the same procedure for the France and Germany Top Companies rankings, including companies with at least 25 senior leadership ratings in the time period considered.
We also analysed review text from more than 367,000 UK-based employee reviews left between 20 April 2021 and 19 April 2022. We included both current and former employees regardless of the year they left their job. Mentions of a particular word were considered ‘negative’ if they were in the cons section of a review and positive if they appeared in the pros section of a review. Highly ranked employee reviews were those with a senior leadership rating of 5 and low-ranked those with a rating of 1.
The words used to describe strong and weak leadership came from two sources: the most common co-occuring words and management synonyms. Before analysing co-occuring words, we first removed commonly occuring words (known as stopwords), then grouped together different forms of the same words (e.g., run, running and ran would all translate to run), a process known as lemmatisation.
After applying this procedure, we then found the most common co-occuring words, or those immediately preceding or following the words management, leadership, or manager/s (or local translations: management, directeur, chef, manager, gestion for French and chef, leitung, management, manager for German). Frequency was measured by the number of posts each co-occuring word appeared in, and the words featured in this blog post were among the 25 most frequently co-occurring words.
To find synonyms, we used Word2Vec, a model that uses a skip-gram neural network to train word embeddings, which represent each word in a review as a series of numbers based on the usage of a word in all UK-based Glassdoor reviews. This procedure forces semantically similar words to be represented by similar vectors. Specifically, we used cosine similarity of vectors to measure how similar two words are. Synonyms of strong leadership were those words with the most similar usage to the word ‘management’ in posts that ranked their senior leadership a 5, while synonyms of weak leadership were found using the same methodology in posts ranking their leadership a 1. All synonyms appeared in at least 20 posts over the time period.
For France and Germany, we kept only French- and German-language reviews respectively, then followed the same procedure as the UK-based reviews, using machine learning models specifically trained for that language.