Get rid of managers and we'll all be happier

Jul 31 2008 by Nic Paton Print This Article

Rather than adding value to their organisations, two thirds of British managers actually create negative working climates that leaving employees feeling resentful and frustrated.

In what is a damning indictment of British managers, research by consultancy Hay has concluded that a fifth of UK workers are frustrated in their jobs, with rigid bureaucracy and poor management structures and systems hampering innovation and productivity.

Just as worrying, more than half of UK firms fail to deal effectively with under-performance within the workplace.

The Hay study has identified a series of management failures at the heart of workforce.

Overly rigid structures, processes and procedures were more often than not preventing employees from exercising initiative, while at the same time creating obstacles to problem-solving.

Half of workers believed they did not have the authority to make decisions crucial to their jobs, with the same proportion complaining of being discouraged from participating in decisions that directly affected their work.

Managers were failing to design jobs in such a way as to capitalise on the talents of their workers, Hay also argued.

More than a third of the workers polled believed their job did not make best use of their skills and abilities.

Ben Hubbard, regional director (EMEA) at Hay's employee survey division, said

"The frustrated employee phenomenon poses a major business risk and a significant missed opportunity.

"With fierce competition for the most talented employees, companies' efforts to engage their people will be wasted if not backed by a supportive and enabling environment," he added.

"Business leaders must ensure that induction, development programmes and support structures are all designed to maintain the right people in the right roles at the right time," he continued.

Work climate, or an employee's experience at work based on the way they are led and managed, was a root cause of all this workplace frustration, the study argued.

More than half of senior managers failed to generate a high-performance climate.

And it was not just UK managers that were failing in this. The study of more than 3,100 leaders across 12 industries found that close to half of the managers were creating demotivating climates for employees, while a further 15 per cent generated only a neutral environment.

Just a quarter of leaders were able to create a high-performance climate, according to employees, and only an additional fifth managed to generate a moderately energising working atmosphere.

"Frustrated employees are seeking a way to better deliver in their jobs, and managers can play a significant role in helping to achieve this," said Hubbard.

"Managers must act to remove procedural barriers and unnecessary bureaucracy, and provide employees with the tools, technology, information, support and other resources they need to be effective in their jobs," he added.

Another factor driving employee frustration was leaders failing to address underperformance and reduce so-called "dead wood" in their workforces.

Fewer than half of organisations dealt effectively with underperformance, its survey found.

The problem was most acute in the automotive industry, where just 44 per cent of companies managed to deal with poor performance.

Other sectors fared little better, with technology, pharmaceutical and manufacturing showing similarly low results.

Even in the best performing sector Ė utilities Ė fewer than two thirds of employees were confident of their company's ability effectively to manage these poor performers.

"Tolerating poor performers will only compound the frustration of productive colleagues left to pick up the slack," said Hubbard.

"Our research shows that the world's most successful companies go the extra mile to identify, reward, engage and enable their best performers, while addressing 'dead wood'.

"Those that fail to do so risk high-performing staff become frustrated, demotivated and potentially seeking pastures new," he added.

"In times of economic uncertainty, organisations can ill-afford to carry the burden of underperformance," he concluded.