British bosses are bullying bureaucrats

Dec 11 2007 by Nic Paton Print This Article

Pity the poor British worker. What they want is a manager with vision and charisma, someone able to inspire and motivate them and who can lead them safely through good and bad times alike. What they get is unimaginative, overbearing paper shufflers.

Research by the British Chartered Management Institute has painted a damning picture of management culture dominated by "leaders" who are bureaucratic, authoritarian and reactive.

Worryingly, if anything, such management characteristics are becoming more, not less, common, it has also argued.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, its poll of 1,511 managers has found higher rates of sickness and absence levels in organisations exhibiting these "negative" management styles.

The most common management style, exhibited by four out of 10 managers, was bureaucratic, it found.

A similar number Ė 37 per cent Ė were reactive and 30 per cent were authoritarian.

All three traits were becoming increasingly common, the CMI found, with the top two characteristics increasing by six per cent since 2004, with authoritarian leadership also rising by five per cent.

Yet the survey also suggested that more empowering, consensual managerial styles were most associated with growing businesses.

More than one in three of organisations performing well were cited as having "accessible" management teams, whereas more than half of declining companies exhibited bureaucracy and a quarter created a "secretive" environment

There was a similar disparity around sickness and absence.

A total of 45 per cent of those polled said sickness rates had gone up where employers were "suspicious", against just a tenth saying the same thing in organisations with "innovative" and "trusting" cultures.

Jo Causon, CMI director, marketing and corporate affairs, said: "The effect of management styles on performance can be marked and has a direct bearing on the levels of health, motivation and commitment linking employers and staff.

"Of course, improving the sense of wellbeing, determination and productivity, is no easy task but one that cannot be ignored. Left alone, it will only serve to reduce morale and lower the quality of working life," she added.

More than two thirds of the managers polled were motivated by "a sense of achievement from reaching organisational goals".

However, it was also clear that management style had a dramatic impact on job satisfaction.

For example, the presence of an authoritarian approach depressed enjoyment of work by 27 points, from 71 to 44 per cent.

Confidence in senior management teams also declined, from 60 to 27 per cent, where the dominant style was bureaucratic.