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Staff consult a variety of sources other than their line manager when they want guidance

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Employees would sooner turn to management books for help with their job than ask their line manager for guidance.

According to the Chartered Management Institute (CMI) and the British Library, 85% of employees would rather seek help elsewhere than turn to their managers when they need guidance at work.

The survey of 2,000 employees shows people are either too scared of looking incompetent (30%), reluctant to bother their boss (48%), or worried that they will be judged for being unsure of what to do (20%). Instead, they are turning to books, the internet, colleagues or friends to avoid seeking help from their managers. Worryingly, just under a quarter of those questioned (23%) also said they wouldn't turn to their manager for advice because they don't trust their judgment, or simply think they would be unable to help. 

Ruth Spellman, CMI chief executive, said: "These new figures paint a worrying picture. The job of a manager is to guide and instruct, ensuring their teams are performing at the top of their game. If you're ever unsure of how to tackle something at work your manager should be the first person you turn to - the one with the support and answers. Any workplace culture where people are scared to speak up or fear appearing foolish, is not going to be conducive to getting great results or nurturing a talented and productive workforce. If the UK's businesses are to rise up out of the recession and flourish, we need to get these things right by vastly improving the quality of our managers and leaders."

The CMI / British Library survey found 30% of people have read a management book, but just 5% are turning to them when they have work issues, suggesting managers are struggling to find useful, practical texts. Perhaps surprisingly, when it comes to topic choice, more people (40%) would like to read about how to achieve a good work-life balance than how to get a pay rise (30%). In addition 31% are interested in guidance on how to manage people, while just 19%would like tips on securing a promotion. 

To support those turning to books and help managers develop their own skills, CMI and the British Library are launching competition to raise awareness of how management theories and thinking can be better applied in practice. The Management Book of the Year competition will aim to uncover the UK's best books on management - those that will help transform the working practices of managers. Its goal is also to raise the profile of the great management writing being produced by UK authors, bringing it to a wider audience and demonstrate the relevance and impact of management research on the UK economy.

Spellman continued: "We are acutely aware that when it comes to management roles, often the wrong, or inadequately skilled, people occupy the top jobs. To revitalise and professionalise management, we need to expose our managers to good ideas and innovative thinking and encourage them to be resourceful and think for themselves. We know the printed word has a vital role to play in this and we're launching this competition to highlight the best management thinking to the business community so they know what to read to help them get to the top. We want to encourage all the UK's managers and leaders to commit to reading to aid their professional development and become more approachable, better managers. We also really want to hear about the books you've read that you think are contenders for the top prize."