Bad management biggest contributor to low productivity


We've had a productivity problem for many years, pre-dating the last recession, and it's not getting any better. I would suggest that's because we keep on pointing the finger in the wrong direction: ...

Read More Gareth Shackleton
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Managers with emotional intelligence are needed to tackle the challenges of Brexit, AI and changing working patterns

A third of workers (32%) regularly struggle to be productive in their job, with one in six (16%) respondents blaming their manager, according to research from ADP.

The study found bad management to be the worst culprit for poor productivity, followed by inefficient systems and processes (15%) and staff shortages (13%).

Workers in the financial services industry face the biggest issues with productivity, according to the findings, with more than two-fifths (44%) saying they are only able to reach maximum productivity ‘some of the time.'

Within this sector more than a quarter (28%) of professionals blame inefficient systems and processes, while a fifth (21%) say bad management is the cause.

Commenting on the research, 50th anniversary professor of organisational psychology and health at Manchester Business School and HR Most Influential Hall of Fame Thinker Cary Cooper, said: “We’ve known for a long time that bad management will affect an employee’s output. This should be common sense; if an employee has a manager who motivates them, gives them opportunities, and gives them flexibility they’ll produce more.

"If an employee has a manager who doesn’t motivate them, and micromanages them, they’ll get poor results,” he said.

“Factors such as technology and social media came up as issues that were detrimental to productivity [in the research], but I'd argue that even this comes back to bad management," he added.

"We need to make sure we’ve got managers who know how to use technology that will get the most out of people, and be useful rather than draining in employees' lives. There are huge challenges ahead: from Brexit, to AI, to people no longer having jobs for life. We need managers who have the emotional intelligence to deal with a changing workforce.”

The research also found that barriers to productivity vary significantly based on age, with over-55s the most affected by bad management (20%), while 16- to 24-year-olds are more affected by social media (22%), distractions from colleagues (21%), and stress (18%). The over-55s were revealed to be the most easily distracted in the workplace, with 17% saying they are rarely or never their most productive.

The ADP study surveyed 1,300 employees across the UK.


We've had a productivity problem for many years, pre-dating the last recession, and it's not getting any better. I would suggest that's because we keep on pointing the finger in the wrong direction: managers. The primary cause of the disastrously low productivity in the UK is not a lack of compassion, emotional intelligence or inter-personal skills amongst managers. Look around you. There is no shortage of compassion and emotional intelligence, especially among the least well trained. Levels of compassion and emotional intelligence haven't dropped since the recession. It's leadership's regard for their employees that wasn't great in the first place. Cary Grant said it himself when he talked about "a more ruthless approach". But that is not about those oft-maligned middle managers - they're not the ones being more ruthless. That is about senior leaders and a culture of sod the employees, the business comes first (or perhaps, we come first: BHS, Carillion, need I cite more). This is clearly a cultural flaw and can't be addressed by training managers to be better, particularly if we train them to be more compassionate and then put them back in an environment that values a ruthless approach. You can lay someone off compassionately and still lose the goodwill of the rest of the workforce if your intention is perceived as self-serving. Loyalty breeds loyalty. Management training will help of course, but the real boost to productivity will come when we change the culture of business to a more humanistic, fairer and transparent model. Let's start doing business in a more equitistic manner and bad management will disappear on its own.

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