Over Half of Employees Say Their Managers Are Ineffective

SEATTLE, WA (May 11, 2009) - Managers have hard jobs, but that doesn't mean they're doing them especially well, according to a recent study on perceptions about managers. The study, conducted by the Institute for Corporate Productivity (i4cp), found that, overall, 6 of 10 study respondents acknowledge that managers in their organizations have "tough but fulfilling" jobs. However, the majority of respondents lack confidence in management's effectiveness, with a little over half (53%) reporting that they rate overall management in their companies as "so-so" or worse.

Some respondents were downright harsh. About 15% said their managers were either "barely deserving the name ‘management'" or just plain "hopeless."

So, why become a manager, taking on a difficult and often unappreciated job? The number-one answer isn't about higher compensation or promotion offers. The top-rated answer among current managers is that they want to "make more of a difference in my organization." Two-thirds of managers gave that answer, a figure that rises to 70% in large companies.

"That answer might seem a bit self-serving," said Mark Vickers, VP of research at i4cp. "But that was far and away the top response, and it helps give lie to the stereotype that managers are status hounds. The truth is, being a manager is a tough job but one that often provides real opportunities to help companies."

Still, there are plenty of people who would prefer to not take on the role of boss. In fact, when non-managers were asked if they wanted to become a manager, fully two-fifths said they didn't. The top reasons were that they think there's no work/life balance, followed by the notion that there's just "too much stress." In write-in answers, one respondent noted, "It seems to change people for the worse," and another summed up being a manager this way: "thankless job, stressful, between a rock and a hard place - conflicting interests."

To find out which kind of managers people prefer, i4cp asked participants to choose between easy-going and tough. More than a third (34%) opted for "easy-going" over "tough" (9%), but the majority didn't like either of those two options. Nearly 57% selected "other" and proceeded to put in their own idea of a preferred manager. It seems people want a mix of managerial qualities, with fairness, consistency, balance and flexibility being among the most widely cited characteristics.

So what qualities are most - and least - associated with managers? Asked to provide one "positive" word to describe managers, the top answer was "leadership," cited by 11%, followed by "supporting" (5.2%) and "mentor" (5%). On the "negative" side, the main choice, selected by 10% of respondents, was "micro-manage," followed by "controlling" at 5.4% and "selfish" at 3.2%.

"It gives you an idea of the yin and yang of leadership," noted Vickers. "People want leaders who will support and empower them, and they hate bosses who try to control every little thing or who appear selfish. Most don't want someone who is just easy-going. They want someone who is responsible. To put it in leadership lingo, I'd say a lot of this is a vote for what they call ‘servant leadership,' where managers provide the people they manage with the help they need to be successful."

The Manager Sentiment Pulse Survey was conducted by i4cp in April 2009. The total number of respondents was 675. The full results of the survey are available exclusively for all i4cp corporate members.

About i4cp, inc.

i4cp is the world's largest vendor-free network of corporations focused on improving workforce productivity. Our vendor-free community facilitates innovation by giving our members - among the largest and most respected organizations in the world - access to:
  1. Peers to spark new ideas and prevent "reinventing the wheel,"
  2. Research to enable members to understand current practices and next practices,
  3. Tools to put ideas and research into action,
  4. Technology to enable members to easily access tailored information and execute workforce strategies.
With more than 40 years of experience and the industry's largest team of human capital analysts, i4cp is the definitive destination for organizations seeking innovative ways to improve workforce productivity. For more information, visit http://www.i4cp.com/
Erik Samdahl
Erik is the head of marketing at i4cp, and has nearly 20 years in the market research and human capital research industry.