Britain at work: a marriage breakdown in progress?

by 13 Dec 2006

RELATIONSHIPS BETWEEN employers and employees in many British workplaces resemble a marriage under stress, characterised by poor communications and low levels of trust. This leads to underperformance, low productivity and high levels of staff turnover.

Recent research commissioned by the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD) found that around one-third of employees say they rarely or never get feedback on their performance, 42 per cent do not feel they are kept well informed about what is going on in their organisation and just 37 per cent are satisfied with the opportunities they have to feed their views and opinions upwards.

Furthermore, the research, which was conducted by Kingston Business School and Ipsos MORI, showed that one-quarter of employees are rarely or never made to feel their work counts and only 38 per cent say directors and senior managers treat them with respect.

“Many employees feel like neglected spouses,”said Mike Emmott, employee relations adviser for the CIPD.

“As in any marriage, good relationships need work and commitment. But with only three in ten employees engaged, the findings suggest many managers just aren’t doing enough to keep their staff interested.

“Lack of communication means many employees feel unsupported and don’t feel their hard work is recognised. As a result, the sparkle has gone out of the relationship, damaging productivity levels in many UK businesses.”

The survey of 2,000 UK employees also found 44 per cent of employees feel they are under excessive pressure at least once a week and 22 per cent experience high levels of stress. This figure rises to 32 per cent among managers.

When it comes to fronting at work, 43 per cent of workers are dissatisfied with the relationship with their manager, and around one-quarter rarely or never look forward to going to work.

“This study clearly shows how much management practice affects people’s attitudes towards their work. There is so much that managers can do to make their staff feel valued and improve levels of engagement that will benefit both employers and employees,” said Catherine Truss, professor of human resource management at Kingston University Business School.

“We found that people who are engaged with their work perform better, are more likely to act as advocates for their employer and experience more job satisfaction. So it is in the interests of everyone to find ways of addressing low levels of engagement in the workplace.”

Neither employers nor employees are really putting in the effort needed to lift the relationship out of the rut, Emmott said.

“Neither is getting the full benefits from the employment relationship and this has to be a top priority for organisations. Getting people to turn up for work is the easy bit,” he said. “Getting them to go the extra mile requires effort and imagination. Employers should be looking to generate passion and enthusiasm, and to make work a happier experience for all their employees.”


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