Living a lie

Mar 31 2004 by Brian Amble Print This Article

Far too many people in the UK have an overblown view of their own skill levels, according to new research, leaving firms with managers who cannot manage and employees who just cannot do the job.

A study by consultants Life Orientations Ltd (LIFO) based on 1,100 assessments of managers and employees across the UK concludes that a quarter of managers and employees are actively deceiving themselves in terms of their ability.

More concerning, a further one in five are oblivious to their weaknesses.

According to LIFO director Bridget Biggar, almost half of people in the UK, many in influential positions, are effectively living a lie in terms of their ability. This problem is compounded by systemic weaknesses in recruitment procedures that lead to heavy cost for British business.

"There are large numbers of managers in the UK who can't manage, can't listen and can't control, get too involved and can't delegate, get their priorities wrong, confuse colleagues and lose sight of their longer-term objectives.

"In many cases the situation has arisen because their seniors have accepted CVs or by-the-book interview responses at face value causing weaknesses to be built in to their management and passed on to staff," she said.

The thrust of the LIFO report is echoed in research carried out by Professor Stephen Nickell of the London School of Economics.

He found that the lower end of Britain's skills base is uniquely large in relation to the rest of northern Europe.

Speaking to BBC Radio, the professor said: "For a long period our education system has just not been geared up to getting the people in the lower half of the ability range up to a decent level of education.

Professor Nickell said that while he believed the government has recognised the problem and is seeking solutions to it, particularly in the primary system, "I fear that there is a long way to go."

Given Britain's link between high levels of relative poverty and low skills, it is "absolutely vital" to continue efforts in this regard, he said.