Why does Britain have such bad bosses? And how to fix it

A recent survey shows that nearly half of SME employees have quit their job because of a bad boss.

by Stephen Jones
Last Updated: 25 Apr 2019

The link between good people management and business performance is hardly a secret, and there’s a swathe of evidence to show that businesses with more engaged and valued employees generally perform better than those without.

The Chartered Management Institute estimates that bad management practices cost the UK economy a combined £84bn a year in lost productivity, while a survey by the process management firm Process Bliss found that up to 45 per cent of SME employees have quit their job at some point because of their boss. An additional 40 per cent believe that their boss interfering too much in their role adversely affects their company's productivity.

Micromanagement, favouritism towards certain colleagues and failure to show appreciation for hard work were some of the bad-boss behaviours listed by the 1,000 respondents.

Given how important good management is, why do so many companies seemingly still get it wrong?

Cary Cooper, Alliance Manchester Business School Professor of Organisational Psychology and Health, says that the hiring practices of many businesses, which tend to favour technical competence over people skills, are partly to blame.

"We have the wrong people in place. They're not trained properly in the right social and interpersonal skills - in other words, how to manage human beings," says Cooper, who identifies a tendency of business schools to teach process over people skills and a lack of diversity in the management pool as other contributing factors.

"Unless we have parity between somebody’s technical and people skills, we're not going to move the productivity dial."

But Cooper says there are things that businesses can do to flush out and fix bad bosses. An audit of a company’s existing personnel can quickly identify any skills gaps, while training programmes that focus on developing resilience and emotional skills can help equip employees with a greater understanding of how to manage people.

Longer term solutions include inclusive hiring and creating a culture that makes employees feel valued.

Ultimately, if British businesses want to remain competitive in the uncertain world of rapid technological and political change, they need to make sure they’re equipped with the tools to get the best out of their people.

Sometimes, that means taking a hard look at our own skills sets – after all, one presumes the vast majority of managers called out by their employees in anonymous surveys have no idea of their faults, and therefore no opportunity to correct them.


Image credit: ra2studio/Gettyimages

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