Nearly half of those employees who quit their jobs do so because their manager refuses to change with the times, according to a survey by YouGov on behalf of BT Business. 42% said they quit because of the ‘outdated and unhelpful’ way in which they were managed: apparently their bosses were too concerned with the way they worked, rather than their output. BT reckons it’s time that Britain’s managers started to get with the programme – but we can’t help feeling that employees will be a lot less likely to kick up a fuss in the current environment...
We should start by pointing out that BT is hardly an impartial witness in this debate. Its report slams managers that ‘still insist on practising ‘presenteeism’, i.e. standing over workers and monitoring their work in situ’, while ‘ignoring the power of modern communications technology to make personal working styles more flexible’. So – that’ll be the kind of technology sold by BT, presumably? It’s no surprise that the attached quote – ‘It’s about building a new communications style that works for both parties’ – comes from BT Business’s marketing director...
On the other hand, the survey does clearly show that employees’ expectations have changed. Whereas once workers were used to spending their day with someone peering over their shoulder, nowadays people expect to be given more freedom. Technology certainly makes the latter easier, but then it also makes constant monitoring easier too (there are all sorts of productivity-measuring tools out there). So both sides understand that this basically boils down to a trust issue. If managers focus on assessing outcomes rather than processes, they’re demonstrating that they trust their staff to get the job done in their own way. If they don't, the reverse may well be true - in which case it’s not going to do wonders for the relationship in the long run.
Of course, the complicating factor at the moment is the state of the job market. It’s easy enough for employees to quit in disgust at their obsolete managers when they know there are other jobs out there; it’s quite another to resign on point of principle when there are ten applicants for every available vacancy (as the TUC suggested this week). The optimist might hope that the lessons of the financial crisis might encourage a more collaborative, less aggressive management style – and that good managers who can inspire out-performance will win out. But it also makes disgruntled employees much less likely to vote with their feet if their manager is hopeless.
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