Managers affect employees’ mental health more than doctors or therapists, respondents to by UKG’s Workplace Institute said — and they reportedly have the same impact as a spouse or partner. The survey also found that work stress doesn’t stay at work. Employees said it negatively affects their home life, wellbeing and relationships. Workers recognize the strain and say they’d be willing to make sacrifices, with 4 in 5 valuing good mental health over a high-paying job and two-thirds saying they’d take a pay cut for a job that better values their mental health.

The common saying that workers don’t leave a job, they leave a manager, may be borne out in the UKG data. But bad managers are more than just an annoyance, UKG data showed — they have a serious impact on workers’ wellness. 

What makes a bad manager? Previous survey respondents and experts have cited micromanagement, unfairness, poor listening, disorganization, an impersonal approach, not soliciting feedback and withholding opportunity as behaviours and traits exhibited by poor managers. 

On the flip side, effective managers check in with their direct reports’ emotional state, are nurturing and ready to help, keep track of their direct reports’ goals and offer constructive feedback, experts said. These skills aren’t always natural to those in management positions, whose previous roles may have required different strengths. To help managers more effectively do their jobs — and turn down the dial on direct reports’ frustration managers can excel when given the right training.

While addressing co-worker relationships may be key to improving employees’ mental health, employers also can look at different methods to ease worker stress, including changing work arrangements to allow for more flexibility and investing in wellbeing benefits that encourage stress-management activities like EAP Assist.