Global discontent afflicts middle managers

2007

Discontent is simmering among middle managers around the world, with many deeply unhappy at their current organisations and almost a third going as far as to describe their companies as being mismanaged.

A survey by Accenture of more than 1,400 middle managers in nine countries in North America, Europe and Asia found that, on average, just four out of 10 (39 per cent) described themselves as "extremely" or "very" satisfied with working at their current organisations.

There was some variation across countries, with respondents in the United States, Spain, Germany and Australia generally showing higher levels of satisfaction than those in other countries.

Nevertheless, one in five emerged as being actively dissatisfied, with one in three across all countries goings as far as to describe their current organisation as being "mismanaged".

This discontent is reflected by the fact that almost a quarter (23 per cent) of respondents said they were currently looking for a new job. In turn, a quarter of these said their primary motivation for moving on was the lack of prospects for advancement at their current jobs, with a similar proportion (22 per cent) citing the lure of better conditions elsewhere.

Levels of pay emerged as one of the biggest single causes of frustration, with more than four out of 10 (44 per cent) complaining of insufficient compensation.

A similar number - some 43 per cent – complained of getting little recognition for the efforts they put in, saying they felt as if they were carrying the lion's share of the burden but getting no credit for it.

Work-life balance was another major bugbear, with a third (35 per cent) frustrated by trying to balance work and personal time and the same figure fed up with the lack of clear career path.

"For the most part, middle managers care deeply about the future of their organisations and their roles in that future, but they are, to a certain extent, the 'frozen middle,'" said Peter Cheese, managing director of Accenture's Human Performance practice.

"Their success depends on having a sense of security and a belief that executives understand their concerns and are taking some action. In leading companies, senior managers address these issues through clear communications, direct engagement and performance goals linked to rewards and career progression."

While approximately half of respondents gave their organisations high marks for how they manage working conditions and benefits – 53 per cent said their companies manage working conditions, and 48 per cent of respondents said their companies manage benefits, in a "good" or "the best possible" way – they gave lower scores to a variety of other functions.

In fact, only about a third of managers felt that their companies were good or excellent at managing compensation, flexible work arrangements, helping them communicate bad news or offering prospects for advancement.

"Senior managers have an untapped opportunity to engage their middle managers," Peter Cheese added.

"Low levels of engagement in such a critical segment of the workforce will affect performance and achievement of strategic goals. As the pressure on key skills and talent increases with the pace of change and demographic influences, those companies that manage this population of workers best will create sustainable competitive advantage and be the high performers of the future."

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