No more mr nice guy?

Mar 04 2009 by Nic Paton Print This Article

During the heady days of the war for talent (remember that?), effective team management was often all about managers tip-toeing around their workers and doing all they could to keep them sweet.

Now, with workers are increasingly prepared to give up their home life, benefits and even their prospects of promotion if it means they just get to keep their jobs, the boot is very much on the other foot.

But even though one in ten of us claim we would even grit our teeth and tolerate otherwise unacceptable behaviour from our managers, does this sort of desperate climate do more harm than good in the long term?

Research from consultancy Ceridian has found that half of workers say they would now be prepared to work longer hours, with 44 per cent happy to accept an increase in workload and one in three voluntarily putting in extra hours, if it protected their job.

The poll of 1,000 British workers also found that despite falling house prices and the cost of living still rising (albeit much more slowly than a few months ago), a tenth would be willing to take a pay cut.

A quarter would accept - though not necessarily happily - a cut in their hours or even their pension contributions if it secured their job.

One in ten would be prepared to accept a demotion to ensure they did not join the ranks of the newly redundant or, conversely, ruthlessly stab a colleague in back in order to prove their value at work.

A quarter said they were also doing more of self promotion at work and one in five was becoming more ruthless about securing their position.

Heightening this toxic atmosphere, almost one in ten agreed they would be prepared to tolerate "unacceptable" behaviour from their managers in order to keep their job, the survey said.

The level of fear stalking workplaces is perhaps less surprising when you take into account new figures from the UK Recruitment and Employment Confederation and consultancy KPMG.

This has suggested that employers are increasingly saving money by replacing senior employees with less experienced staff on lower pay.

The report also found demand for staff declining at its fastest rate for more than a decade.

REC chief executive Kevin Green said: "It is clear that we have not yet hit the bottom of the jobs market with demand for staff continuing to contract. Every job must be seen as an opportunity to keep people in work, including temporary, interim and contract positions."

The findings from both pieces of research come as a comparison of job cutting programmes on both sides of the Atlantic has identified startling similarities between what is being played out in the U.S and the UK.

With British Prime Minister Gordon Brown meeting President Obama this week, a comparison of Labour Market Outlook surveys conducted in the UK by the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development and in the U.S by the Society of Human Resource Management has identified recession-related job cuts of a similar magnitude in both countries.

This is despite the fact that the UK economy started to experience its jobs downturn around one calendar quarter later than the U.S, illustrating the sharpness of the job cuts within the UK.

The SHRM survey has suggested that one in three U.S employers cut jobs in the final quarter of 2008.

This was similar to the proportion of UK employers planning job cuts in the first quarter of 2009, according to the CIPD.

But the SHRM survey also suggested there were slightly fewer first quarter U.S job cuts Ė with a fifth planning to cut jobs Ė which, if the similarity of experience continues, might indicate that the worst of the current UK jobs cull could be over by Easter, the CIPD added.

CIPD public policy adviser Gerwyn Davies said: "Our comparison of the U.S and UK studies highlights a marked degree of transatlantic trauma affecting the jobs market.

"In proportionate terms the 2.6 million jobs lost to the U.S economy in 2008 is in line with the CIPD's expectation that the UK economy will shed at least 600,000 in 2009," he added.

"And judging by the similarity of experience in both countries there is clearly some way to go before the jobs fallout from the recession comes to an end in either country," he continued.

The Ceridian research, meanwhile, also found more employees saying they valued access to confidential financial and personal advice, such as Employee Assistance Programmes, particularly when it came to dealing with stress and personal finance issues.

Four out of five added that what they wanted from their managers was open and honest dialogue, even if the news being imparted was not good.

Karan Paige, chief people officer at Ceridian, said: "By providing on honest reflection of how the business is doing you can build trust with your employees, helping them understand the reasoning for some of the decisions being taken and engaging them in tactics to improve business performance."