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Mistrust of managers undermining business

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British business growth is being undermined by widespread mistrust of senior managers

This is according to The Middle Manager Lifeline report by the Chartered Management Institute (CMI) and leadership events specialist Top Banana.

A majority (85%) of business leaders and managers agreed that trust is critical to business performance. However, just one in three (36%) of the 1,456 middle managers surveyed for the report said they fully trust their senior leaders.

Only 37% of those polled agreed that their leadership team is transparent, and only 31% said they were ‘very confident’ in communicating company guidance and strategy to their teams.

Middle managers said that they want senior leaders to reveal their thinking on important issues (63%) but also to admit their mistakes (54%) and encourage people to raise issues (51%) with them.

Ann Francke, CMI chief executive, said that the results reflect a “communication breakdown”.

“The Brexit vote reflected a breakdown of trust in politicians, businesses and other institutions,” she said. “Rebuilding it isn’t just a requirement of our political leadership – it’s a profound management challenge for the nation.

“These findings are a warning that a communication breakdown between leaders, middle managers and employees more widely is undermining growth. Leaders have to recognise the pivotal role played by middle managers at the heart of their organisations and support them to succeed in the months and years ahead.”

Bridging the gap between senior leaders and middle managers has never been more important, according to Nick Terry, co-founder and managing director of Top Banana.

“There is a clear trust illusion in our organisations,” he said. “Business leaders may think that it’s there but the reality is the further away you get from the leader, the more of an issue trust becomes. Ultimately trust is personal and therefore leaders need to create opportunities to communicate with their managers candidly, honestly and with an open heart.”