'Competence-confidence gap' undermining workplaces: Survey

Lack of effective management, leadership perpetuates downbeat attitude in workplace
|hrreporter.com|Last Updated: 06/22/2011

A lack of competence and misplaced confidence amongst bosses is creating a stressed out, unfulfilled workforce, according to a survey by the Chartered Management Institute (CMI).

The result is worrying for business — three quarters of employees (74 per cent) regularly make decisions at work they don’t feel trained or qualified to make, found the survey of 2,000 employees across the United Kingdom.

More than one-half (55 per cent) dont think their manager exhibits the right levels of confidence or possesses sufficient ability to do the job. But 38 per cent of employees report their boss thinks he is good at what he does, suggesting that a “competence-confidence gap” is undermining workplaces.

The lack of effective management and leadership is perpetuating a downbeat attitude in the workplace, said CMI. Almost four in 10 employees (39 per cent) feel their boss behaviour increases stress levels, 34 per cent complain their boss negatively affects enjoyment of their job and one in 10 blame their boss for declining health.

“It may be that the recession has created a 'blame culture where bosses are scared to make decisions and their charges are scared to ask for help for fear of being seen as incompetent,” said Ruth Spellman, chief executive of CMI. “Managers need to demonstrate they are secure in their ability to make wise, and sometimes brave, decisions if they are to engage their team and encourage them to succeed. An unfulfilled and stressed out workforce, which is lacking motivation and direction from its bosses, will not thrive. Managers need to be accessible, help their employees develop and feel confident in their ability to do their jobs well.”

One of the biggest concerns is employees feel their bosses are unapproachable, found the survey. In the past month, 61 per cent of workers have wanted to ask their boss for help making a decision but have not been given the opportunity. This lack of support is clearly affecting performance and engagement, as 23 per cent regularly worry about making decisions at work, 32 per cent lose respect for their manager and 10 per cent cover up mistakes they have made.

Young employees are particularly embarrassed to ask their boss for help, with 39 per cent of 18 to 24 year olds feeling unable to do so, compared to 14 per cent of 45 to 54 year olds, found CMI. Younger employees also feel they are not receiving the coaching and support from their boss they require — 82 per cent believe they make decisions at work they are not qualified to make, compared to 66 per cent of 45- to 54-year-old employees.

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