Bad change management damaging British firms

Jan 26 2005 by Nic Paton Print This Article

British businesses simply do not get it when it comes to managing change effectively, creating stress, harassment and conflict at work, according to a damning report by business school Roffey Park.

Its annual Management Agenda survey found a massive 92 per cent of the 600 managers polled said they had experienced organisational change over the past couple of years.

The past year had seen a big increase in downsizing, with more than a third – 35 per cent – showing people the door and nearly half – 43 per cent – moving production overseas.

But, while most organisations were good at making change happen, they were singularly bad at consolidating it, maintaining momentum and reviewing and learning from the process, argued report authors Linda Holbeche and Claire McCartney.

“Change and restructuring are often badly managed,” they complained. “As a result, we’re seeing greater incidences of stress, harassment and conflict in the workplace. Organisations must learn to manage change more effectively.”

More managers than ever before – 78 per cent – said they were suffering from work- related stress, caused by increasing workloads, lack of time and lack of support.

More than half of managers – 52 per cent – had experienced harassment at work, 27 per cent had been bullied and 34 per cent felt they had been deliberately sidelined or excluded.

Senior managers were the main perpetrators of harassment, although line managers and colleagues were also at fault, the study found.

Conflict had increased in 46 per cent of organisations over the past two years, predominantly because of differing personalities and agendas.

And more than half of managers – 56 per cent – said they had seen an increase in office politics.

Echoing the recent comments attributed to Gordon Brown about Tony Blair, a quarter of managers said they have lost trust in their corporate leaders, up from 22 per cent last year.

"There is a perception that senior managers are secretive and out for their personal gain,” said the authors.

"Senior managers must become more open and communicative and they must ‘walk the talk’ in terms of the corporate values, to stem this rising level of mistrust,” they added.