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‘Negative’ management styles most common in UK organisations

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The ‘command and control’ approach to work is hindering UK productivity, according to research.

Performance levels in workplaces are suffering as overbearing and dogmatic management practices top the list of management styles.

The report into the quality of working life, which questioned 1,511 managers, also found a high rate of sickness and absence levels in organisations exhibiting ‘negative’ management styles.

The research, published by the Chartered Management Institute and Simplyhealth, assessed the impact of differing managerial styles on motivation, health and productivity. Key findings include:

  • Tight reins: the most widely experienced management styles in UK organisations are bureaucratic (40 per cent), reactive (37 per cent) and authoritarian (30 per cent). Worryingly, all three have become increasingly common; the top two have increased by 6 per cent since 2004, with authoritarian leadership also rising 5 per cent.
  • Index linked: the research shows empowering managerial styles are most associated with growing businesses. More than one in three (37 per cent) of organisations performing well are cited as having ‘accessible’ management teams, whereas 56 per cent of declining companies exhibit bureaucracy and 25 per cent create a ‘secretive’ environment.
  • Sicknote culture: only one in 10 respondents said absence increased in organisations with ‘innovative’ and ‘trusting’ cultures. This was in contrast to 45 per cent suggesting sickness rates have gone up where employers were ‘suspicious’.

Jo Causon, director of marketing and corporate affairs at the Chartered Management Institute, said: “The effect of management styles on performance can be marked and has a direct bearing on the levels of health, motivation and commitment linking employers and staff.

“Of course, improving the sense of wellbeing, determination and productivity, is no easy task but one that cannot be ignored. Left alone, it will only serve to reduce morale and lower the quality of working life.”

The findings show that 69 per cent are motivated by ‘a sense of achievement from reaching organisational goals’. However, it is clear from the findings that management style also has a dramatic impact on job satisfaction. For example, the presence of an authoritarian approach depresses enjoyment of work by 27 points, from 71 to 44 per cent. Where the dominant style is bureaucratic, confidence in senior management teams also declines from 60 to 27 per cent.

The report was developed by Professor Les Worrall (University of Wolverhampton Business School) and Professor Cary Cooper (Lancaster University Management School). It is the sixth in a series of reports exploring the quality of working life in the UK.

Commenting on the findings, Professor Cooper said: “Against a backdrop of constant change, the relationship between good management practice and the reality of the workplace is intriguing. In an environment dominated by the need to retain the best talent, it is also extremely disappointing to see negative styles prevail in the UK.”

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Annie Hayes

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