Own up, workers urge bosses

The UK's workers want their managers to admit their mistakes more readily. But it seems they're not very good at that...

by Dave Waller
Last Updated: 20 Dec 2010
That’s according to the brilliantly named Krauthammer Observatory, which has run a survey of management behaviour across Europe. Apparently the biggest concern among employees was that managers don’t own up to their mistakes. We thought that was simply called ‘delegating’?

Some 92% of employees want their managers to admit errors spontaneously. Unfortunately only 48% tend to do so, while 28% react by dismissing the importance of the mistake entirely. The rest may admit there’s been a balls-up, while distancing themselves or palming the blame on to some other poor soul. Reading that, we couldn’t help wondering whether Krauthammer had made a screw up of its own and surveyed politicians by mistake. But no, managers it is. And that’s no more reassuring.

So what else are managers doing wrong? Well, apparently staff want them to provide more help in working through problems together; this was a concern for 95% of employees, but only 45% of bosses actually do so (others presumably present their own analysis of the situation and expect the employee to nod along). What’s more, a third of managers generally behave in a ‘penalising’ way. Perhaps that’s why only 39% of staff are firmly committed to remaining in their organisation over the next 12 months. That’s quite a hefty proportion, given the state of the employment market out there.

But Krauthammer isn’t simply putting the boot in. Instead it’s saying that employees can take it upon themselves to support their managers and keep things running smoothly. It says that managers will find it easier to own up if employees ‘see the individual behind the mistakes’ – making it clear that any error on their part won’t turn into a personal matter. It adds that they should help managers to listen by checking they understand things. Which does seem a bit patronising. Have you got that, dear? No? Well, whose fault is that?

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