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'Accidental managers' threaten workplace wellbeing

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January 17 2022 - In the UK, over two thirds of managers categorise themselves as 'accidental managers'. Accidental managers are defined as managers promoted on their service record rather than their people management or soft skills.

This is negatively affecting employee retention, mental health and productivity, says Christopher Golby, co-founder and director at Lumien, a mental health platform driving everyday use of wellbeing as a business strategy.

Data gathered by Lumien over the past 18 months reveals the top reason for employees leaving their jobs - cited by 50% of employees - is poor management. It also demonstrates the detrimental impact that poor management has on workplace productivity. Untrained management can prompt a 16% drop in employee productivity, translating to a financial hit of over £5,000 per employee (based on the average UK salary of £31,461).

This dangerous skills gap isn’t the fault of the managers, as 71% of employers in the UK admit they don’t train first-time managers.

Learning to lead

There is a persistent myth in many organisations that leaders are ‘born’ rather than made, and that charisma is all you need. However, this belief has been debunked by many experts in the field.

Managers can have an expert knowledge of their field and be skilled in their job but be uncertain of how to lead. Many rely on their job title and status within the business to drive through decisions - good or bad - lacking the understanding of the complexities of leading a team.

This impact on employees can lead many to quit their roles.

How does it feel to work for an accidental manager?

  • Insecure - no clear goals and role
  • Exhausting - working long hours, poor work/life balance
  • Stressful - lack of support
  • Lonely or isolated
  • Disinterested - low engagement
  • Distracted - in your job and personal life
  • Misalignment with values - feeling like you don’t belong
  • No recognition or reward
  • Poor career development - what’s next?
  • Bullying/harassment
  • Poor relationships/morale
  • Lack of job security.

These feelings create significant barriers to good mental health and workplace wellbeing, and consequently, they can drive down productivity by up to 15.6%. Lumien’s research shows that productivity can reduce by 9% due to stress, 13% because of low engagement and 18% due to distractionsi.

Understanding your teams

Maintaining resilient workforces during the COVID-19 pandemic tested managers’ skills. Lumien data shows that:

  • 27% of individuals are significantly impacted by financial worries
  • 33% have demonstrated symptoms of depression
  • 46% showed signs of significant stress
  • 78% faced impacted sleep patterns
  • 52% have shown signs of loneliness.
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Image source: Pexels

The true cost of poor workplace wellbeing

Inadequate management of staff wellbeing costs companies. This can affect reputation as well as the bottom line.

Not addressing workplace mental health has significant potential financial impact. However, by better supporting workers, UK business could avoid losing up to £45 billion each year. For every £1 invested in supporting their employees’ mental health, employers can get up to £5 in return from reduced presenteeism, absenteeism and staff turnover.

Companies must start measuring and reporting on staff wellbeing. Team morale is a necessity for boardroom agendas, and it should be reviewed regularly. Senior leaders should give their managers the ‘tools’ and training to effectively monitor and respond to wellbeing issues.

Many businesses are struggling to fill posts, so stakes are high. Job vacancies are at a record high, with many businesses struggling with recruiting even when offering higher salaries.

A more proactive approach ...

In reality, companies often only realise ‘it’s time to do something about mental health’ once things are going wrong. Then they’ll look for quick fixes, often turning to Mental Health First Aid or Employee Assistance Programmes. However, reactive decisions can never be as effective as proactively tackling the issue, and they’re unlikely to have much impact if management issues aren’t addressed first.

Some businesses may put tools into place, such as offering subscriptions to mindfulness apps or programmes. However, they won’t put measures in place to understand and evaluate their impact.

Measurement and reporting are essential. Businesses need to know where issues are in order to strategise workplace wellbeing before valuable team members decide to leave.

When it comes to workforce wellbeing, there’s no quick fix or ‘one size fits all’ solution. Wellbeing isn’t a fad. It has a direct impact on the performance of a business.

Evidenced-based wellbeing support

An evidence-based strategy should be developed by top leaders in organisations to address how the whole business works, considering factors such as: peaks in activity, facilities, shift work, remote work and skills development and training.

Data-led wellbeing strategies will not only support people but improve the culture and effectiveness of the whole business.

Competing on a global scale means every business needs to recruit and retain the best people who are trained to perform at a world-class level - in productivity and innovation.

Taking care of employees should be the cornerstone of that ambition.

To explore how you can improve your business with a wellbeing strategy rooted in data, visit Lumien.

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