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Managers More Interested In Power Than People

September 26 2007 - A survey of 137 major European employers conducted by the international HR consultancy Cubiks found that most managers take on responsibility for managing people because they want greater involvement in company decision-making and not because they are fundamentally interested in managing and developing teams.

Two-thirds of respondents (68 per cent) were from organizations with over 1000 employees and 17 per cent had over 50 000 staff. The majority (80 per cent) had offices in more than one country and 75 per cent of respondents were HR specialists.

The survey found that only 28 per cent said they were interested in staff development and more than half (53 per cent) said that their chief motivation for managing people was to gain greater involvement in company decision-making. Less commonly stated motivations were the prospect of a higher salary and benefits such as a company car (7 per cent) and considering it a step towards greater seniority (6 per cent).

Nearly half of respondents (48 per cent) reported spending less than 10 per cent of their time discussing and developing staff performance, and almost half felt that their own line manager had not contributed to their career development. Only 36 per cent believed that managers rather than employees themselves should be responsible for ensuring that development suggestions are put into action.

Barry Spence, CEO of Cubiks, commented:

"It is clear from the findings that most people do not take the decision to move into a managerial position because they gain satisfaction from people development activities.

"A high proportion of managers are motivated by self-serving factors such as the desire to grow their political influence, increase their salary or accelerate their progress through an organization.

"This is very useful information as it demonstrates why it is so important for organizations to ensure that new managers are given adequate training before they are asked to assume responsibility for staff, and why the performance of existing managers must be reviewed constantly. Most managers will not be intrinsically interested in developing people or naturally inclined to invest their energies in staff development activities, so the benefits of good talent management must be continually communicated."

The survey found that many employers have failed to create an open and constructive work environment where managers feel able to honestly appraise the strengths and development needs of colleagues.

Other key survey findings include:

  • Being honest could be bad for your career: 53 per cent of respondents believed that criticising their manager could be harmful to their career prospects; 52 per cent said that they found it difficult to give feedback to colleagues face-to-face; only 18 per cent believed that the feedback that they gave to their manager was always acted upon.
  • Women are considered to be more honest than men: 19 per cent of respondents believed that women were more honest than men when giving feedback, only 6 per cent believed men to be more honest.
  • Employees don't like being on the receiving end of criticism: Almost two-thirds (60 per cent) admitted to feeling uncomfortable when receiving negative criticism. However, the majority accepted that negative criticism was a simple fact of working life - only 9 per cent said that they had considered leaving their organization following a poor feedback review.
Barry Spence continued:

"Speak to any major employer and they will tell you how committed they are to continually improving the performance of both their business and their people. Most will go further and state that they wish to put in place a culture of knowledge and learning where the free exchange of information between individuals, teams and departments is recognized as being critical to the company's operations. Given that is the case, it is surprising that so many people indicate that they do not work in an environment where feedback is either encouraged or valued.

"If individuals are to improve their performance at work, they cannot afford to have development 'blind spots'. However, development needs will only be identified if staff feel that can provide constructive criticism to others without fear of reprisal. At the same time, employees who are being given feedback should see the comments as helpful development tips and not get defensive or uncomfortable. Individuals with a high degree of self-awareness usually make rapid career progress if they commit to tackling their development needs."

The survey confirmed the growing popularity of 360 degree feedback tools which gather the views of an individual's managers and peers together with direct reports for performance management purposes. The majority of respondents (87 per cent) reported always giving honest answers, 81 per cent rated their ability to manage feedback discussions as either good or excellent. The feedback discussion with managers was considered the most valuable part of the process. 360 degree feedback was used to assess middle and senior managers in 61 per cent of organizations and 46 per cent used it as part of a structured development process.

Barry Spence added:

"360 degree feedback tools can play a key role in helping businesses to successfully embed a feedback culture. By anonymously capturing the views of managers, peers and reports, they can help individuals to gain an accurate and well-rounded understanding of their strengths and development needs in a constructive and non-threatening manner. The best online systems are highly flexible, ask competency-based questions that are highly relevant to each individual's role, and pull together all responses in the form of a structured feedback report that provides useful development tips and guidance for further reading. Organizations can use these tools and quickly overcome issues of openness and honesty."

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