Managers running on empty as work overload spirals

Jun 29 2004 by Brian Amble Print This Article

British managers are overworked, undervalued, forced to put business ahead of family and work within negative, authoritarian cultures, according to a survey released this week.

The Chartered Management Institute’s Business Energy Survey assessed the attitudes, motivations and aspirations of 1,500 managers and found that far too many UK businesses are failing to understand the wants and needs of their most important assets.

The report is the latest to paint a picture of over-worked and under-valued managers who feel cut off from remote senior management.

One in five managers surveyed said work an extra 14 hours more than they are paid for, effectively equating to a seven day week. As a result, almost half (43 per cent) feel that they are overloaded with work.

This volume of work has adverse effects on managers’ energy levels. More than a third (35 per cent) admit to having no energy on weekday evenings because of work and a quarter admit to using the weekend solely to recover from work.

However, managers seem happy to work long hours providing they feel a sense of purpose in their work. Six out of ten cite this as their biggest motivating factor, with only 12 per cent seeing pay as the main motivator

Many managers feel that there is a negative management style operating in their organisation with most crying out for open and receptive management but not getting it.

A quarter think their organisation has an ‘authoritarian’ culture with almost one in three (28 per cent) feeling exploited. A third believe the prevailing management style in their organisation is bureaucratic and one in three believe it is reactive.

And despite the time and effort spent by managers in trying to develop effective communications strategies, fewer than one-third of respondents expressed satisfaction with the communications.

Mary Chapman, chief executive of the Chartered Management Institute, says that it is easy to see why frustrations exist.

"The pace of change and a desire to reduce costs has had major implications on working patterns in many organisations, but all too often these are not communicated effectively and they take their toll through longer working hours and a drained workforce," she said.

"Part of the problem lies in senior management believing one thing about morale, when those closer to the coal-face have vastly different experiences.

"It’s only when people begin to feel a close, and meaningful, involvement with their organisation that they bring energy, enthusiasm and passion to their work. And when that happens the end result is often seen in greater drive, productivity and results."

The survey also shows a real desire from managers to develop new flexible ways of working. The most popular idea is to introduce compressed working weeks (39 per cent) and career breaks (32 per cent).

But despite the enthusiasm for these new flexible benefits only a tiny proportion of managers (fewer than six per cent) believe these will ever be introduced by their organisations.

"UK businesses need to spend more time talking with their managers and listening to their concerns and new ideas. Many of us may be working into our late 60s and 70s so companies that embrace flexible ways of working are more likely to keep people motivated and enthusiastic about their jobs,” adds Chapman.

Unsurprisingly, recruitment is a problem for many businesses surveyed. A third of respondents cited ‘difficulty in recruiting the appropriate staff’ as a reason why new working practices had been introduced.

"It is no wonder many organisations have trouble finding and keeping the right people given what we’ve found here," said Richard Macmillan of HR solutions provider Adecco, who sponsored the research.

"The atmosphere they are creating inside their businesses is not the positive, proactive, empowering culture where most would aspire to build their careers. By listening to and embracing new ideas companies can retain their best staff and build a reputation that attracts new talent."