Culture of secrecy damaging UK business performance.

2006

A culture of secrecy and suspicion is stifling the creativity and effectiveness of Britain's managers as their employers fail to give them the freedom to work on their own or trust their staff to deliver.

Research carried out over the past 16 months by the Chartered Management Institute (CMI) has revealed that more than six out of 10 managers believe their organisation's culture has an impact on decision-making.

Of 1,588 managers asked to identify the dominant culture in their organisation, almost a quarter (23 per cent) spoke of risk-averse workplace environments dominated by secrecy and suspicion.

In this pervasive atmosphere of 'corporate caution', only a minority suggested they have real freedom to make decisions, with only just over one in 10 -13 per cent – describing their work culture as 'entrepreneurial'.

But with only eight per cent of managers saying that making decisions at work is difficult, it is clear that mangers are not afraid of decision-making.

Yet fear of failure, bureaucracy and an absence of trust are clearly stopping these decisions being implemented.

Only 12 per cent of managers say their organisation exhibits a trusting culture and fewer than one in 10 (eight per cent) are given 'sign off' responsibility.

Compounding this, almost a third (31 per cent) claim their organisation's culture is reactive and a further eight per cent complain that their employer has a 'suspicious' nature.

With these views in mind it is no wonder that three out of 10 suggest their organisation responds to change in an ad hoc, haphazard, fashion and fail to plan their next move properly.

Nevertheless, said the CMI's Jo Causon the survey also highlighted that in contrast to populist stereotypes, managers are passionate about the impact their decisions have on others.

Two-thirds are more concerned about the impact their decisions have on their employer, with only a tiny minority (one per cent) admitting their primary concern is their own career, she pointed out.

A quarter of the mangers surveyed also suggested that 'accountability' is a vital element of decision-making and 17 per cent cited 'responsibility'.

"However, managers appear to be working in environments where decision-making is regarded with an element of fear," she added.

"No one is suggesting that caution should be thrown to the wind, but if morale, performance and productivity are to be improved organisations need to create a culture where decisions can be reached based on empowerment and entrepreneurial spirit."