Falling short: a third of us give the boss a big thumbs down

2012

If you're one of those who feels that their boss is remote, ineffective and even incompetent, you're not alone. In fact according to a new report, a third of employees worldwide think their manager is ineffective and four out of 10 have left a job primarily because of poor leadership.

"Lessons for Leaders from the People Who Matter", by talent management firm DDI, quizzed almost 1,300 workers in the US, UK, Australia, Canada, China, Germany, India, and South East Asia to find out what their leaders are doing right and what they are doing wrong.

As it turned out, there is plenty that is going wrong, with a third of respondents (34 per cent) saying they only sometimes or never consider their leader to be effective, and even more (37 per cent) saying they are rarely or never motivated to give their best by their leader.

Just four out of 10 reported that their boss never damages their self-esteem, while nearly half think they could do their boss' job, only better – although only about half would actually want their boss' job, a finding which has implications for the future supply of leaders.

"We wanted to hear how the customers of leaders themselves saw their managers and bosses," said Simon Mitchell, Director at DDI UK and one of the authors of the report.

"These findings should be of enormous concern to any business. They show that leaders are failing in their obligation to employees and, therefore, their organisation. The consequences of managers and bosses with poor leadership skills are enormous, and the impact good leaders have in terms of employee motivation and productivity are significant."

Not listening, an inability to deal with conflict, favoritism, a lack of feedback and lack of consultation were among the specific leadership failings highlighted in the survey. Moreover, fully seven out of 10 respondents said that their boss doesn't remain calm and constructive when discussing a problem, suggesting that employees are more likely to withhold problems or issues from their bosses and less likely to engage them in difficult discussions.

The upshot of this lack of fundamental leadership skills is that many managers are failing to foster healthy manager/employee relationships, with negative impacts on areas such as customer service, innovation, and meeting challenging goals.

As the survey also found, respondents felt they would be 20 to 60 per cent more productive if they were working for their 'best ever' boss, with a quarter saying they would be 41 to 60 percent more productive. In other words, for every two to three people managed by their 'best ever' leaders, there would be a productivity gain equal to a whole new extra person.

Comparing the results from people with the best and worst managers (based on respondent perceptions), those reporting they felt motivated to give their best leapt from 11 per cent to 98 per cent, and those reporting that their manager does a good job helping them be more productive went from 5 per cent to 94 per cent.

"Workers report that managers fail to ask for their ideas and input, are poor at work related conversations and do not provide sufficient feedback on their performance, so it's no wonder employee engagement levels are low," Simon Mitchell added.

"Leaders remain stubbornly poor at these fundamental basics of good leadership that have little to do with the current challenging business climate. It's important that organisations equip the people managing their workforce with these basic leadership essentials, and that managers are aware of their own blind spots in these areas. The good news for businesses and employees alike is that many of these leadership skills can be learnt."

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