Bad managers are driving talented staff away from education

British employees cite bullying, aggressive behaviours and micro-management as examples of their most recent experiences of poor management

Poor management is endemic in education, with 83% of employees having experienced what they consider poor management, or a poor manager, at least once during their career, according to new research by YouGov on behalf of leading HR and payroll solutions provider MHR.

The survey of 2,006 British employees also found that 71% of employees in the sector who have experienced poor management or a poor manager have considered leaving a job and, among these, a staggering 65% actually quit their job because of bad management.

On a national level, 80% of employees have experienced what they consider poor management or a poor manager at some point, with 73% having considered quitting a job and 55% actually doing so.

When asked whether managers are equipped to deal with the human or emotional side of management, 57% of respondents in the education sector (compared to 58% nationally) said that they are not. This was illustrated in the answers employees provided when they were asked how they had experienced poor management or a poor manager.

Worryingly, a number of respondents said that they had experienced bullying, micro-management, aggressive and threatening behaviour from their managers during recent employment. Respondents also described bad managers as often inexperienced, out of their depth, lacking the necessary people skills, expressing favouritism, failing to offer recognition and feedback and failing to communicate effectively.

The most shocking comments were around the subject of mental health, with several respondents citing a complete disregard or lack of awareness of issues surrounding mental health in the workplace. As well as failing to support employees suffering from anxiety or depression, several respondents claimed that their manager was directly responsible for causing the decline in their mental health.

Poor management practices can have a significantly damaging impact on employee morale, engagement, productivity and job satisfaction.

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Julie Lock, service development director at MHR, says: “The survey highlights a widespread failure in the way organisations prepare and train people managers to take care of their staff effectively. While managers are commonly trained in company policy and may understand organisational processes and procedures like the back of their hand, most don’t possess the people skills required to handle the human aspect of management and receive no training for this, which, as the research illustrates, can have damaging and long-lasting repercussions when it comes to employee engagement, talent retention and wellbeing.

“Managers promoted from within often struggle to make the transition from being everyone’s friend to being the boss, while managers appointed from outside an organisation often arrive wanting to prove their managerial abilities, but find it difficult to balance demonstrating authority with wanting people to like them. Being a good people manager requires a very specific skillset, the right training and effective internal processes that drive employee engagement.

Julie adds: “The survey also exposes a worrying lack of awareness and understanding around mental health, with poor management sometimes directly responsible for causing mental health problems. This is unacceptable, and exposes a worrying trend that should make all CEOs sit up and take notice. Organisations need to focus on their duty of care for the health and wellbeing of their staff, including mental health.”

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