Majority of UK staff 'would perform as well' with no boss

25 October 2019 5 min. read

Micromanaging bosses are leaving many employees craving more freedom to do their jobs, with two-thirds of workers stating they want more responsibility at work. At the same time, a failure to adequately motivate and support staff means a majority believe they could effectively execute their role without their manager at all.

In the agile and rapidly changing business environment of the 21st century, effective leadership has arguably never been more important. In spite of this, a mounting pile of evidence suggests that the British workforce is fast running out of patience with the antiquated techniques of its bosses. Recent surveys of staff in the UK have found that the performance review strategies, mental health support and level of freedom granted by managers to their staff have all been found wanting.

Now, the latest Boss Barometer survey from professional services firm Kimble has gone one better, with the revelation that the majority of staff feel they could do their job as well – if not better – if they did not have a manager. Of the 1,000 full-time employees polled by Kimble, only 11% felt that their performance would drastically decline in the absence of their boss. Meanwhile, a huge 47% said they would do just as well, and a further 18% said they would see their performance improve if they were left to their own devices.

Majority of UK staff 'would perform as well' with no boss

According to the researchers, this surprising finding is likely because many bosses are totally behind the curve when it comes to modernising their techniques for an increasingly skilled, digitally savvy workforce. Reflecting a growing confidence in their collective talents, a majority of 67% of workers want more responsibility at work, while 73% said they prefer a collaborative culture where managers consult with them during decision making.

Despite this, only 27% of staff said their employers allowed for this, while the vast majority of workplaces still operate hierarchical, command-and-control styles. This supports prior evidence gathered by Accenture, which found that two-thirds of UK employees are not empowered enough to innovate in their jobs, meaning companies miss out on major opportunities thanks to over-bearing micromanagement.

Kimble co-founder Mark Robinson commented on the finding, “British workers indicate their willingness to collaborate more whilst taking on greater leadership roles which are both key fundamentals to agile management. This approach would alleviate a lot of referenced employee challenges, and allow bosses to motivate, coach and train employees, all skills that are wanted in a boss. We are moving away from a world where it is seen as the bosses job to tell people what to do. It is the boss’s job to provide clarity of mission and to remove obstacles to the team’s success.”

Majority of UK staff 'would perform as well' with no boss

There are steps firms can allow their managers to take to repair this relationship, however. A mutual respect still exists between staff and bosses, with 78% of employees respecting their manager, while 74% said their manager respects them. Building upon this, managers would do well to heed what skills staff see as being most important for managers. Nearly half (49%) said that the ability to motivate is most important thing for a good boss, while decision making was scored the most important by a quarter of respondents, and coaching and training was selected by 14%.

Further illustrating how important accommodating these priorities is, the survey found that a large portion of UK workers do not feel supported in their career development. While such support ranked highly in employee impressions of what makes a good manager, 32% of workers feel their manager is not invested in their career growth and aspirations. Further to this, a recent study from Mercer found that a lack of management support for staff could lead to mental health issues. As a result, it is not especially surprising that Kimble found 75% of staff said their boss was a factor in deciding to leave a job.

Summarising the report, Robinson concluded, “Having engaged and enthusiastic employees who feel supported to take decisions and try new things helps creates a culture of innovation and growth. Where hierarchies exist, it can create a culture where colleagues pit themselves against each other to impress the boss, creating a cut throat working culture. Given a large majority of workers feel they can do their job without their manager, there is a sense of animosity that some managers may be limiting growth and development of those they manage.”