British bosses caught in credibility gap

Feb 16 2005 by Brian Amble Print This Article

Workers in Britain are significantly more cynical about the job being done by senior management than their counterparts in the USA, with fewer than a third expressing trust and confidence in their leaders.

Surveys of more than 15,000 private sector workers in the US and UK by consultants Watson Wyatt found that while half (51 per cent) of employees in the US had trust and confidence in the job being done by their organisationís leaders, only 31 per cent of UK workers felt the same.

"Clearly there may be cultural factors at play here when we compare the UK and US," said Andrew Cocks, European head of employee research at Watson Wyatt.

"But nevertheless, UK business leaders can take little comfort from these results. There is a clear need for a better dialogue between management and employees and the development of a real climate of openness and trust, especially if we are going to compete effectively with the US in the new Ďcheap dollarí world."

Watson Wyatt found that employeesí ratings of senior managers in the US had risen from a low of 44 per cent in 2002, following Enron and other high profile corporate scandals.

But there is no evidence for a similar upward trend in the UK survey.

"Lack of confidence in senior management does not just make for a difficult atmosphere at work," said Andrew Cocks.

"Our research shows that it can hit the bottom line hard. In an employee survey we recently conducted for a major European company, belief in senior management proved to be the strongest leading indicator of new product sales and was their top business performance indicator."

According to Watson Wyatt, effective communication is a key way in which leaders can build trust with employees.

Despite this, and only months before the implementation of the new EU Directive on Informing and Consulting Employees, it is significant that only 30 per cent of UK workers believe that management explains the reasons behind major decisions and as few as 18 per cent believe that management successfully involves employees in decision making.

"Greater mutual understanding has to be key to the future success of business in the UK," said Andrew Cocks.

"In order to play an active part in taking any organisation forward, employees need to understand and support any vision leaders have for the future and know how they can contribute to the process in their day to day work.

"Our research has consistently shown a link between factors such as employee alignment and commitment and enhanced business and financial performance."