Author Profile Picture

Jamie Lawrence


Insights Director

Read more about Jamie Lawrence

News: almost half of UK workers feel ‘threatened by their boss’


Close to half (47 percent) of UK employees feel actively threatened by their boss, according to new research from leadership development consultancy Head Heart + Brain.

Broken down by sector, civil servants (72 percent) felt the most threatened – unsurprising considering the changes that have run through the civil service over the last three years. According to the Cabinet Office, 95,000 people failed to turn up for work when the civil servants went on strike.

Scientists (63 percent) and doctors (60 percent) were the second and third most threatened professions. Retail workers also ranked highly (58 percent), well ahead of the 47 percent average.

The survey didn’t go into detail on why employees felt threatened and so it’s difficult to draw conclusions over the state of management throughout the UK – the word ‘threatened’ may refer to job security for some individuals.

According to Head Heart + Brain partner Jan Hills, neuroscience shows the best leaders consciously manage staff in a way that makes them feel rewarded. Feelings of reward boost engagement, decision-making skills and productivity.

Hills said: “If employees feel threatened, they process information less effectively and can’t perform at their best.”

“In the current economic climate, both business and public sector leaders feel they have to run just in order to stand still. They are under immense pressure to make their organisations leaner, while also improving performance. And pressure breeds threatening behaviour if it isn’t channelled in the right way.

“If it is managed in the wrong way, stress can gradually erode the quality of their leadership until it deteriorates to a disastrously low level. It creates a vicious downward cycle where productivity begins to suffer as the work force begins to feel increasingly threatened by brain-fried leaders.”

When pressure builds, second-guessing increases and good communication becomes paramount. Managers must make sure they are transparent over where the business is financially and what needs to be done – that way if they are overly-stressed, employees know why. They don’t take it personally.

One Response

  1. Reward

     As an employee in the public sector, what always means most to me is some acknowledgement from line managers or managers. I have worked for a mix of employers and the ones who treat everyone as a human being create the best teams and working atmosphere. Of course good managers also need to tell people when they make a mistake but if that is done directly and isn’t held against the employee (unless they continue to make the same mistakes) then it doesn’t cause bad feeling. On the whole, working for a fair employer is the most effective reward.

Author Profile Picture
Jamie Lawrence

Insights Director

Read more from Jamie Lawrence