Exclusive: 93% of employees would strongly consider leaving their employer due to a culture of fear

Tom Newcombe , 17 Apr 2013


Almost all employees (93%) would strongly consider leaving their employer, according to a report published today by professional services firm Hillcroft House.

The report UK Management Culture of Fear, seen exclusively by HR magazine, asked almost 1,000 UK workers about performance appraisal processes and results, leadership qualities of direct line managers and overall satisfaction levels.

To the question 'would you definitely consider leaving your current employer', a huge 93% responded with 'strongly agree', a big jump from 49% in 2008.

According to the research, there has been a large drop in the satisfaction levels of UK employees due to what the report dubs a "culture of fear".

Only 2% of respondents 'strongly agreed' they were satisfied in their job, a drop from 21% in 2008. And 72% of workers said they felt their direct line manager did not communicate effectively and concisely until the formal performance appraisal process, up from 58% in 2012.

The quality of essential leadership and engagement skills necessary for a manager halved between 2008 and 2012, the report revealed. This lack of effective skills could lead to increased levels of conflict and stress in the workplace, poor working relationships and poor performance.

The report warned that if organisations do not address employee concerns now, they may face significant challenges in the future with talented staff deciding to seek new opportunities elsewhere.

Adam Crizzle, managing director, Hillcroft House, told HR magazine: "The drop in 'satisfaction' for employees could be put down to their managers dealing with incredible amounts of stress due to the climate.

"We believe these results may have been caused by training cuts due to the current economic position. If so, a big message to HR that has come out of the report is: don't cut training for middle management."

Crizzle added: "What the board needs to understand is that if is not investing in the essential training for their managers, critical leadership and engagement skills will be lost. Their people will just jump from one crisis to the next, resulting in lost opportunities for growth."

The report was originally undertaken in 2008 and then four years later in 2012 so comparisons could be drawn.

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GRH 17 Apr 2013

Breeds fear. This cascades down. It may be fear that the subordinate may know more about the job or be better at it than the manager so he fears for his position, or his ego is so big envy and jealousy rules, and stifles the sub. Fear drives every negative aspect of life. Unfortunately many people thrive on fear and wouldn't know what to do in a happy environment. All the article really does is give people an excuse to be in more fear...and so it goes on.

Report Availability

FedtheRed 17 Apr 2013

Who authored the report and is it publicly available?

Fear? Or disengagement?

Tom Hardcastle 18 Apr 2013

I don’t think it is so much a fear of managers; it’s more a fear for the future. These days companies seem to lack real vision and leadership, staff are becoming more disengaged and disillusioned. Middle managers, and to some extent senior managers, are so afraid of making tough decisions, because it might upset someone,(in my opinion) that businesses are not making the right decisions for their long term future. One of the major causes of this is the inability, or appetite, to deal with poor performers and blockers. Certainly poor performers need training, mentoring, coaching and close monitoring, but eventually, if all else fail, then the ultimate sanction should be used. The hard working, productive colleagues would have far more respect for their managers then. Many times I have seen poor performers “getting away with it” for years, in some extreme cases being promoted! Blockers are those who always oppose change, just for the sake of it, they are always negative and basically try and bring everyone down to their level of misery. They should be challenged at every opportunity so that eventually everyone sees them for what they are and they become a non-entities. Neither do I think it’s about sustained, or increased levels of training for middle managers. It’s about choosing the RIGHT managers in the first place. It seems obvious when you see it written, but is seldom a reality; that is, the BEST people should be promoted, not just someone you’re mates with, or have worked with before. This seems endemic, in my opinion, these days. Hence disengagement and disillusionment, hence reducing staff survey results.

Fear of Tackling Fear

AEH 18 Apr 2013

I agree totally with Tom Hardcastle's comments below. GRH may be missing the point. Employers are fearful of attacking fear. In their minds, they are opening themselves up to tribunals and breaking of yet more employer-restricting laws if they tackle the 'blockers'. Conversely, the tendency now is to favour longer-serving staff over 'new blood'. Blockers have arisen through employers being averse to getting rid of long-serving staff who may be ineffective, through LIFO policies and redundancy costs. They then pile on the accumulated risk and the need to hit target on new staff during their probation periods. If the new staff hit it, great. If not, they get rid of them at no cost to themselves. Ask any Sales Recruitment Specialist about this. Fear is being bred by a lack of leadership skills in Top Management. They are quick to pile that risk and responsibility on to Middle Management, without realising their own shortcomings. The past Government grants for Leadership and Management training went some way to addressing this. Then the grants got binned by Government a couple of years ago, as did one-on-one support for businesses and employers through initiatives like Train to Gain, Business Link and Skills Brokers, so there has been no incentive for employers to address this critical area, which just continues to escalate.

Message for FedtheRed

AFC 18 Apr 2013

The full report can be downloaded for free

The challenges HR face

Reiss 18 Apr 2013

49% would consider leaving in 2008 to 93% in 2013. This article is an eye opener for the HR community. I think HR Managers need to be more frank and open with their employees and employees to be more frank and open with middle and senior management. Fear is the worst thing to cascade through an organisation. I think it leads to decreased productivity and increased absenteeism. What are employees fearing? I think the fear of losing their job, not be considered for promotion, having to work longer hours and have an increasing workload because of redundancies. (For the parent this may mean not being able to see their family as much) As the article states, "What the board needs to understand is that if is not investing in the essential training for their managers, critical leadership and engagement skills will be lost. Their people will just jump from one crisis to the next, resulting in lost opportunities for growth." I am aware of the cost stresses that many organisations are under but to not train managers in these skills could mean an even longer term cost to the organisation.

Real Fear is beyond Bullying

NHS EMPLOYEE 18 Apr 2013

In my generation, middle managers get to their positions by hard work, and most are genuine professionals with sound knowledge of their work through experience and very high ethical integrity. I was once very proud of my own ability to learn new things and have an open mind to challenge bad practice in an NHS organisation. This was until I realised what ‘real’ fear is. ‘Real’ fear is when Senior Managers are in the positions to use the same HR policies and procedures to bully other managers down the hierarchy regardless of the department or professional discipline. With the innate worry of losing one’s job, most subordinates are going to follow the orders of those above them, trusting their seniors’ expertise and professional judgement. When you asked to leave the organisation and your boss refused to let you go, this is a sign of something going on. If you have not got into a habit of keeping your copy of personal confidential documents, ask to see your whole personnel file and actually pay for a copy of it, because you may find a few surprises there! Contact a truly independent party (who cannot be influenced by your organisation), and you will see light. In my opinion, this economic recession is seeing a metamorphosis of ‘bullying’ to an unrecognisable form. Management training is supposed to provide the tools for managers to manage with policies and procedures that produce fairness and justice, but values and behaviours have changed drastically over the years. The theories and models from Industrialists and Management Gurus do not seem appropriate nowadays, or is the NHS so badly in need of complete rethink? People who have been investigating the recent NHS Hospitals scandal, in my opinion, are only addressing the end products of mismanagement from the higher levels of the hospitals. I think they are just kidding themselves of the size of the real problems by naming a few hospitals that have the integrity of reporting true figures. If senior managers have the power to temper with personnel files as they see fit, and enjoy the protection of policies and procedures, what else can they not temper with? What chance does front line staff stands when even their local union representative is stressed out and off ill? The ‘employers’ are further protected because the policies and procedures stipulate that they can disallow ‘outsiders’ in employment meetings. So what is meant to be ‘fair and just’ is once again vehicles of ‘bullying made legitimate’. What are badly needed are truly independent investigations / auditing of each Hospital Trust from the highest levels down before sacrificing front line staff, particularly those who have real compassion and only interested in the health and care of their patients.

Missing the point?

David H. Meagher 18 Apr 2013

Having downloaded and read the report, in addition to the article, I wonder with all due respect, whether some are misinterpreting the article? Lack of leadership, is in my opinion what it boils down to. As you’re no doubt aware, leadership and management are two entirely different things. Yes I agree there are too many too scared of tribunals (and conflict?) to tackle the non-performers; is that mismanagement or a lack of leadership though? Correctly follow the HR procedures and there is nothing to fear from a tribunal. Other staff members seeing non performers getting away with it are then diss-incentivised. Worse still, in some instances the good performers have their work load increased because they are seen as reliable, to cope with the shortfall created by the non-performers. I agree too that fear of the future is a problem, but is this not the point of the article/report? Because the managers are aware that the employees are aware (or should be) of the high numbers out of work and the number of company’s laying-off staff, that poorly skilled (trained? lazy?) managers can use this to their advantage, for example “If you don’t like it, then leave!” A real leader: is very self-aware; knows that they are only as good as the team that they lead; will ensure that problem team members are dealt with as soon as the problem is identified; knows that the big stick approach never works because they can’t be stood there with the big stick always; that productivity improves with reward (as simple as a “well done”), trust and responsibility! All stated as my opinion and not to agitate or argue, but to get more thoughts forthcoming!

The business case for training

HR Manager - SME 22 Apr 2013

Well done HR Magazine and Tom Newcombe for finding and reporting the Hillcroft House Research and the research by Head Heart and Brain (Half of UK employees feel threatened by their boss). These two articles are the most important for HR I’ve read this year. All HR Managers in SMEs I’ve spoken to agree with the findings. I agree with David H. Meagher’s comment on 18 Apr 2013 and as Reiss says in his comment on 18 Apr 2013 “This article is an eye opener for the HR community.” The cuts in training for middle managers since the recession started has left HR professionals with a catastrophe of middle management in their organisation with poor leadership and engagement skills. We know these problems exist but it is tough for HR Professionals to get past Financial Directors who only agree to mandatory training, look at the bottom line and are blind to future survival and profitability. This research HR Magazine has found is essential for any HR professional to use to support the business case for training. I looked at the Hillcroft House website and there is a library of research going back to 2006 that can make the HR professionals life easier when presenting a business case. The only criticism I have of Hillcroft House is that they should have published their latest report earlier this year. Well done again to HR Magazine and to especially to Tom Newcombe for a very good piece of journalism. Keep up the good work.

Well said!

David H. Meagher 22 Apr 2013

A pity that the website design here does not allow one to respond directly to others comments, in a threaded view so it is obvious. A clever idea to use the information to formulate business cases; thank you!

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