Working relationships are a marriage made in hell

Dec 04 2006 by Nic Paton Print This Article

British workplaces more often than not resemble a crumbling marriage, with the relationship between managers and their workers characterised by poor communication and low levels of trust.

This, in turn, according to a new survey from the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development, contributes to Britain's malaise when it comes to underperformance, low productivity and high levels of staff turnover.

Its survey of 2,000 UK employees conducted by Kingston Business School and Ipsos MORI found nearly a third of employees complained of rarely or never getting feedback on their performance.

Four out of 10 did not feel they were kept well informed about what was going on in their organisation.

And some two thirds were dissatisfied with the opportunities they had to feed their views and opinions upwards.

A quarter rarely or never felt their work counted and more than two thirds felt directors and senior managers did not treat them with respect.

More than four out of 10 complained of being put under excessive pressure once or twice a week or more, and a fifth experienced high levels of stress, rising to a third of managers.

Almost half of employees were dissatisfied with the relationship with their manager and around one-quarter rarely or never looked forward to going to work.

Just under a third was dissatisfied with the way their organisation was managed, with just 37 per cent having confidence in their senior management team and 34 per cent trusting their senior managers.

Worryingly for managers, a quarter were dissatisfied in their job and nearly half admitted they were either looking for another job or in process of leaving their current job.

Mike Emmott, CIPD employee relations adviser, said: "Many employees feel like neglected spouses.

"As in any marriage, good relationships need work and commitment. But with only three in ten employees engaged the findings suggest many managers just aren't doing enough to keep their staff interested," he added.

"Lack of communication means many employees feel unsupported and don't feel their hard work is recognised. As a result the sparkle has gone out of the relationship, damaging productivity levels in many UK businesses," he warned.

Catherine Truss, professor of HR management at Kingston University Business School and lead author of the report, said the study showed how much management practice affected people's attitudes towards their work.

"There is so much that managers can do to make their staff feel valued and improve levels of engagement that will benefit both employers and employees," she said.

"We found that people who are engaged with their work perform better, are more likely to act as advocates for their employer and experience more job satisfaction. So it is in the interests of everyone to find ways of addressing low levels of engagement in the workplace," she added.

"Getting people to turn up for work is the easy bit," concluded Emmott. "Getting them to go the extra mile requires effort and imagination. Employers should be looking to generate passion and enthusiasm, and to make work a happier experience for all their employees."