horrible boss

The CIPD’s most recent Employee Outlook survey raised a worrying trend in employee attitudes to their senior managers: they are deteriorating. Whilst employee job satisfaction is at 65%, having increased in most cases from the spring survey, employee satisfaction with managers has declined across all five areas measured. Employee engagement has also dropped by 3% in the last six months. The two are undoubtedly related, but what can businesses do to combat these findings?

Leadership issues in figures

  • Only 36% of employees are engaged with their organisation.
  • 46% of employees feel they receive either limited or very little information about what is happening in their organisation.
  • The biggest drops in scores for attitudes to management are seen when it comes to clarity of vision (-6%), confidence (-5%) and consultation (-4%).
  • Just 38% of employees are satisfied with opportunities for upward feedback.

Key challenges

The findings of the most recent Employee Outlook survey support the conclusions of this year’s Deloitte UK Human Capital Trends Report, where 86% of companies cited leadership as one of the biggest challenges they are facing. But what are the key challenges?


The five areas measured by the CIPD survey are a good place to start: clarity of vision, confidence, consultation, respect, and trust.

Clarity of vision – Drop: 6 net percentage points

Although some guidance is always necessary, the survey reflected increased dissatisfaction with the level of micromanagement happening in UK organisations. Knowing your tasks from day to day is a prerequisite for productivity, but understanding how they fit into the wider organisational vision is essential for genuinely engaged employees. After all, how can your people share your vision and values if they don’t know what these are?

When you or your team know what you’re doing and why you’re doing it, success is far more likely.


Confidence – Drop: 5 net percentage points

A lack of confidence from employees toward senior management suggests the management team itself projects a lack of confidence. Improved access to top-flight leadership training and development is key in making up this shortfall in confidence. A lack of communication also undoubtedly feeds into this lack of confidence.

If leaders operate with clarity, it is much easier to have confidence that they know what they’re doing, and will support you in your role.


Consultation – Drop: 4 net percentage points

Employees surveyed are also dissatisfied with the lack of consultation from managers on important decisions. Although nobody could expect to be consulted every time the board makes a decision, but it seems short-sighted not to engage your employees by consulting them, not to mention drawing on their unique experience of the business.

Motivating and engaging employees is a key management skill, which this survey suggests is seriously lacking in UK managers.


Respect – Drop: 4 net percentage points

Respect may be earnt, but there is no excuse for treating your employees in a disrespectful manner. Every employee has a different perspective and set of experiences and skills, and each one is valuable to the organisation.

Recognising this is one of the fundamentals of good people management, but something else which clearly needs development, according to these figures.


Trust – Drop: 3 net percentage points

Once again, a lack of communication is at play here. Managers need to realise that trust is earnt, and that this goes both ways. Increased self-awareness for both managers and employees could greatly help this situation, and so too could improved clarity of vision from managers. A lack of trust can seriously damage employee attitudes towards managers, and therefore impact negatively on their performance and productivity.

Trust is a basic element of a good working relationship.


Moving on…

With such poor relations between managers and their teams, it’s no wonder that 20% of those surveyed by the CIPD were actively looking for new jobs. After all, it’s also important to consider that failing to retain talent can have a significant long-term impact on the bottom line, just like poor leadership does…

Stay tuned for Part 2 later this week, where we’ll suggest some solutions for businesses looking to improve their managers and increase employee engagement.

Written by Florence Sturt-Hammond