· Features

Why many employees have a low opinion of their manager's people management skills

For any manager to be effective, they need to have confidence and control over their role but, according research from the Chartered Management Institute (CMI), managers have a very different perception of their people management skills compared with the people they are responsible for managing.

Just 14% of people felt their managers excelled at people management skills, while a poll of managers found that 44% of them believed they had excellent management capability.

The CMI blames the gap on a mixture of inadequate management training and the growing number of people who find themselves in manager roles and, given the importance of leadership to organisational success, this is a worrying trend.

At the heart of a good people manager is emotional intelligence. Good managers understand themselves, their strengths and weaknesses. They have maturity and emotional awareness to understand the impact they have on others. They are also open to feedback, using it as a chance to learn particularly while accepting that in opening the door for feedback it may not always be positive. So managers do have a role here in improving their capability that may need them to take off their rose-tinted spectacles and see what is really happening among their teams.

The poor perception of management skills among employees could be related to how managers deal with poor performers, a scenario that is tricky for the most experienced of managers.  Our annual survey of the workplace – The Management Agenda – reports a mixed view of how confident managers are in dealing with underperformance, with just over 55% accepting they were very confident in dealing with these issues. So what is hindering managers?  The most common reasons given are that procedures and policies are often complex, managers feel there is a lack of support from HR and others feel that the organisational culture is biased against dealing with underperformance.  What is clear is that managers need specific skills to deal with underperformance as well as clear processes and a supportive organisational culture in order to do this effectively.

The degree of confidence in tackling underperformance is related to how much influence managers have over their team. More junior managers attributed their lack of confidence to a lack of decision-making power while, in contrast, board directors who have the power to make decisions attributed any shortfall to a lack of personal skills.

To develop a better picture of people management skills requires more than training or development. Not only do managers need to strengthen their emotional intelligence, but organisations need to do their bit too by making sure that they are getting the best use of their middle and junior managers by giving them adequate influence over their teams.  Not only does this make managers lives easier, but it will enable them to motivate team members and maximise performance.

To participate in Roffey Park’s latest survey of workplace trends – The Management Agenda – click here and complete the online survey with the opportunity to win an iPad. HR magazine will exclusively reveal the key findings.

Jo Hennessy is director of research and international development at Roffey Park Institute