It took Google years of study to discover the formula. It will only take you five minutes to see if your boss is one.

 
Google hasn’t always appreciated management. The tech company had a progressive vision: to run the business without bosses.

In 2002, Google conducted an experiment to see what could happen — and got rid of all managers. It didn’t go that well. People were left searching for answers to basic issues as well as guidance in career advice, among other important matters.

So, a few years later, a team of researchers went back to prove that managers don’t matter. But very quickly they discovered the opposite. Managers matter a lot.

Google’s Project Oxygen pivoted from “Do managers matter?” to “What if every Googler had an awesome manager?” The company spent over ten years solving this puzzle.

Then, the tech giant began asking team members to answer a few questions. Each statement addresses one of the ten behaviors of successful managers at Google. It takes less than five minutes to assess your boss.

Google’s Manager Feedback Survey has fifteen questions — the first is the most critical one.

 

What Google Found Out about Being a Great Boss

Google assessment tool has two sets of questions. The first section assesses managers using a 5-point scale. The second part is for open feedback:

14. What would you recommend your manager keep doing?

15. What would you have your manager change?

But, you don’t need to answer the whole questionnaire to identify if your boss is a great leader. The first question says it all:

Would I recommend my manager to others?

That’s the essence of Google’s survey. Think of a restaurant as a proxy. You can evaluate items such as the service, food, price, and menu separately. But, in the end, what really matters is the overall experience — would you recommend it to a friend?

Reviewing Google’s questions, I identified four categories that define the characteristics of being a good boss:

  1. Your Manager Supports Your Career

2. Your Manager Respects You

3. Your Manager Is Focused and Clear

4. Your Manager Is Qualified

 

1. Your Manager Supports Your Career

Over 70% of ‘high-retention-risk’ employees want to leave because they see no future advancement in their current job, according to Willis Towers Watson. Great bosses take care of their people — their future development matters.

Successful managers provide career path options. They help people grow — they don’t hold them back for personal interests.

2. My manager assigns stretch opportunities to help me develop my career

9. My manager has had a meaningful discussion with me about my career development in the past six months

 

2. Your Manager Trusts You

We spent many, long hours per day at work to feel unhappy. Good managers understand and trust their team members. They behave like a coach — they respect your thinking, contribute to building psychological safety, and don’t micromanage you.

Good managers get you. 92% of employees said they are more likely to stay with their job if their bosses would show more empathy, according to a survey by Business Solver.

3. My manager provides me the autonomy I need to do my job (i.e., does not micromanage)

6. My manager consistently shows consideration for me as a person

11. The actions of my manager show they value the perspective I bring to the team, even if it is different from their own

 

3. Your Manager Is Focused and Clear

Clarity and transparency are the foundation of effective collaboration. A good manager should keep their teams informed, be consistent, and drive purpose and goal alignment.

People won’t recommend bosses who keep most things to themselves, continually change priorities or are reactive.

3. My manager communicates clear goals for our team

4. My manager gives me actionable feedback on a regular basis

7. My manager keeps the team focused on priorities, even when it’s difficult

8. My manager regularly shares relevant information from their manager or senior leadership

 

4. Your Manager Is Qualified

Among all four categories, this is the most straightforward. It focuses on your manager’s own performance.

Basically, does your boss have what it takes? From technical expertise to making the right call — especially when it’s not easy — to collaborating both with the team and other divisions or hierarchies.

10. My manager has the technical expertise required to effectively manage me

12. My manager makes tough decisions effectively (e.g., decisions involving multiple teams, competing priorities, etc.)

13. My manager effectively collaborates across boundaries (e.g., team, organizational)

 

Never Trust a Manager Who Doesn’t Care

Great bosses don’t just treat their people with care. They also take care of the environment. Recommended leaders build a Fearless Culture — a safe space for experimentation where authenticity, collaboration, and innovation can thrive.

Successful managers care about their teams, not just about their personal interests — that’s why people recommend them.

30% of employees would consider quitting if they were unhappy at work, and 79% of employees said their bosses didn’t care about their happiness level.

Assess your boss using Google’s questionnaire — you can adapt it to your organization. See what happens.

If you cannot recommend your manager, don’t panic. Take your time to understand why. Can you address the issues with your boss? Do your colleagues feel the same? Can you fix the situation or shall you start searching for a new job?

Clarity is vital. Trust is the glue that holds people together. Without it, no collaboration is possible — even if your boss shares the same passion for a project. Mutual trust is more important than mutual interest.

So, would you recommend your boss to a colleague?

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