Uncertainty and indecision stop managers moving on

Jan 22 2008 by Nic Paton Print This Article

It isn't just women who believe their progress is blocked by a glass ceiling. All managers, irrespective of their gender, face a "glass wall" of real and imagined barriers when it comes to making the step into a more senior or alternative role.

Seven out of 10 British managers polled by recruitment firm Theladders.co.uk said they felt trapped in their job and unable to move upwards, as if they were surrounded by glass walls.

The poll of more than 500 senior workers argued these walls were sometimes real, such as lack of opportunities to show their worth, company culture, market conditions and a lack of succession planning.

But they were also just as commonly internal barriers, with three out of four managers feeling paralysed by indecision and uncertainty when it came to hunting for a new job.

It's a malaise even affecting high-flying City bankers as financial markets tumble, a survey from the UK-based financial careers website eFinancialCareers.com has also argued.

Its poll of some 2,000 bankers found nearly a quarter admitting that, if their bonus did not come up to expectations, they would simply rage inwardly and carry on rather than jumping ship.

TheLadders.co.uk poll found four out of 10 managers who said they felt "glassed in" put it down to not having enough contacts at senior level, while a similar number blamed a lack of opportunity available to them and a quarter said they did not understand the high-end jobs' market.

A tenth were also worried that colleagues would find out if they started looking elsewhere for a new position, and the possibly negative consequences this might have on their current position.

Jim Hunter, consultant business psychologist for TheLadders.co.uk, argued that just a fifth of the executives polled had said they felt in complete control of their careers.

While mature managers were entrepreneurial when it came to business issues, they often lacked confidence on a personal level, he added.

"In spite of a buoyant job market, many fear lack of opportunity, lack of contacts, lifestyle changes and increasingly they lack faith in the recruitment marketplace," he said.

Almost half of the senior executives polled admitted they were more likely to put their faith in networking than professional headhunters, the survey also concluded.

It also identified deeply ingrained scepticism about recruitment firms, with more that half describing headhunters as "ineffective".

The eFinancialCareers.com poll, meanwhile, did conclude that most UK City bankers would still consider changing jobs if they were dissatisfied with their year-end bonuses.

In the survey of 1,874 City professionals, more than half they would look for a better paying job at another bank if they did not get the year-end bonus they felt they deserved.

However, after a year that saw the U.S. sub-prime crisis take its toll on major banks including UBS, Citigroup & Merrill Lynch, the question was how realistic it was for such professionals to assume there were roles out for them, it pointed out.

Sarah Butcher, editor of eFinancialCareers.com, said: "Financial professionals seem to be optimistic about the prospects of finding work elsewhere, should they look for it.

"After a week of disastrous bank results, let's hope that the packages being proposed by the US to kick-start the US economy bear out this optimism," she added.

The quarter of bankers who said they would carry on regardless, albeit seething inside, was simply a reflection of increased realism about the current state of the market, the poll suggested.

But this more cautious note was in stark contrast to that being shown in the Far East, where nearly three quarters of bankers in Singapore and more than two thirds in Hong Kong Ė both financial markets that have been largely unaffected by the sub-prime fall-out Ė said they would look to walk if they were dissatisfied with their bonus.

By comparison, just 13 per cent in Singapore and 14 per cent in Hong Kong would be prepared to "carry on regardless".

"Attitudes amongst Far East bankers appear to be more in line with the attitudes of UK bankers twelve months ago than today Ė and reflect the high levels of confidence being experienced in the region that is currently a primary driver of the global economy," said Butcher.