Deluded managers misjudge their strengths

Managers aren't as good at management as they thought. But perhaps it's not their fault...

Last Updated: 31 Aug 2010

Most of us have probably, at some point, had to put up with the ego-driven behaviour of a manager who's a little too big for his or her boots – but if new research is anything to go by, it appears this sort of behaviour is more common than we’d think. A survey by the Chartered Management Institute has found that managers have a drastically different perception of their abilities relative to their long-suffering underlings, with over half of managers apparently misjudging their strengths in the workplace.

The CMI started by questioning just over 2,000 managers: 44% said their area of expertise was managing people, while 19% said it was managing themselves, 14% said they were ‘born leaders’ and 21% said they were ‘target-busters’ (whatever that means). However, when the CMI polled 6,000 of these companies' staff, using an online quiz, the results were rather different: 41% said 'getting results' was their manager's greatest strength, while 37% said their boss was a 'strong leader'. But just 14% were thought to be good at managing people. That’s quite a big discrepancy...

On the face of it, these figures suggest UK managers are a bit delusional about their own abilities - and much less good at managing people than they think they are. And it's all largely in line with a study by the CMI in November, which found that almost half of employees had left a job because of a bad manager, while another half said they’d be willing to take the fairly drastic step of taking a pay-cut in order to work with a better manager.

The CMI's view is that this is basically a training problem (although as a training provider, it does have rather a vested interest here). Apparently, 68% of managers say they never planned to end up in a managerial role, while 63% had no training in management before they took up their post. 'There's an urgent need to refocus the attention of UK businesses on the way individuals learn to manage. Good managers aren’t born, they are made,’ boss Ruth Spellman told MT last year. In other words, it's as much about the managers' managers than the managers themselves.

Either way, the research doesn't paint a particularly cheery picture of the state of UK management. Could this be why the likes of Royal Mail, M&S and BP have all chosen to appoint CEOs recently who have cut their managerial teeth outside the UK?

In today's bulletin:
Investment banking sends Barclays profits soaring to £3.9bn
Warner Brothers wants to build a big Shed in the UK
Deluded managers misjudge their strengths
Google Waves farewell to collaboration app
UK's holiday memories spoiled by bulging inboxes

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