Line Manager Confidence

In this two minute HR blast we wanted to look at the issue of manager confidence.

Over the years, the issues that have come across our desks, in the Jaluch advice centre are often exacerbated by a lack of confidence on the part of the line manager. And sometimes of the HR team too.

Lack of confidence can affect the following:

  • Performance management
  • Managing discipline
  • Managing absence and other attendance issues
  • Handling of grievances and small disputes
  • Dealing with probationers and staff with short service
  • Timely and appropriate response to tribunal and other claims
  • Development of both under performers and star performers
  • Identifying and dealing with team or individual motivation issues
  • Timely and appropriate response to employee queries including holidays, flexible working requests etc.

Which in turn can impact on:

  • Employee motivation
  • Employee retention
  • Costs, profit
  • Customer satisfaction
  • Reputation
  • Productivity
  • Job satisfaction
  • Overall positivity and engagement at work

Which all adds up to:

Wasted money, financial penalties, increased costs, reduced customer service, damage to business reputation…

And when do we see this most?

  • With those who are new to managing people
  • With managers who are facing issues never encountered before
  • With managers who lack the support of their managers/directors – or of HR
  • When there is a can’t be bothered management, low accountability culture
  • In a culture that believes in paying people off, so why bother managing any issues?
  • When organisations don’t understand the value in developing the people management skills of their managers
  • With managers who fear confrontation
  • When managers have had previous bad experiences with managing staff issues
  • In a culture where employees who are aggressive and critical are not disciplined or reprimanded
  • When managers lack critical knowledge such as employment law, company policies and procedures, what motivates and demotivates staff, how to plan and carry out an employee appraisal etc.

So if the costs and repercussions of lack of confidence are high, what can you do about it?

In essence it’s a three stage process:

  • Developing Knowledge
  • Instilling Accountability
  • Providing Support


  1. Managers cannot manage staff with their back against the wall. That means they need to know as much as, or probably more than, most of their employees about:
  • Employment law and other human, or other, rights (often hurled in their faces by angry or defensive employees).
  • Company polices and procedures (again often quoted or misquoted by defensive employees).
  1. Employees expect managers to be counsellors, advisors, nursemaids, coaches, leaders, decision makers, role models, the fountain of all knowledge, arbitrators, expert motivators, with infinite capacity to absorb other people’s stress. The roles are many and varied. What would really help managers is to be given some sort of training about what the organisation really expects of them and how that might differ from the expectations of employees. They need to better understand the role of manager.


  1. If there is no mention of staff management in a manager’s appraisal or KPIs, then what message does that send about whether people management is a key part of their role? People management has to be written into their job role and job responsibilities. People management is not something that occasionally takes half an hour. It probably absorbs much of every day, so make sure your KPIs and development plans for managers reflect that.
  2. Accountability always has to start at the top. So before berating managers about their lack of accountability, consider whether the directors are accountable in the way they manage people issues. Introduce accountability from the very top and then cascade it down through the ranks.
  3.  Include perceptions about accountability in your employee opinion/engagement surveys. Do staff perceptions marry up with organisational perceptions? Does work need to be done on this?


  1. Consider the culture of your organisation. Does it support those who make mistakes or does it love nothing better than finding someone to blame? Is any cultural change needed and how can this be led from the top?
  2. Is there a macho culture that believes that all managers can just absorb stress? Or does the culture recognise that managing people can be hugely stressful at times and that managers will require support when dealing with difficult situations?
  3. Are senior and middle managers rewarded or acknowledged for actively supporting and developing their line managers? If they aren’t, is there any reason why they should put any energy into these activities?
  4. Are managers who lack confidence ever offered confident communication skills (or assertiveness) training or does the organisation just expect them to be confident because they have the word ‘manager’ in the job title?
  5. Is there a clear support mechanism to help managers deal with the simple and more complex day to say issues?

Lack of confidence costs organisations across the UK millions of pounds. Money is chucked down the drain every day an employee is off sick just because they know the manager won’t manage it. And every day someone operates at 75% capacity instead of 95% just because they know their supervisor won’t be on their case. And every day an employee issue escalates to an employment tribunal because of some clumsy, careless handling of a trivial issue by a line manager which then blows it up into a big issue and it therefore goes from costing 2 hours of management time, to £25K in compensation in a tribunal – plus legal fees of course.

How much does lack of confidence cost your business every year?

How Jaluch can support you…

Knowledge – Jaluch provides numerous options around developing the confidence of line managers including our unique Essential Employment Law for line managers course.

Accountability – Not sure if there is sufficient accountability in your organisation? Why not ask us to carry out a survey of managers or otherwise conduct an employee opinion survey for you?

Support – Ask us who we might recommend to support managers who are stressed, ask us about developing KPIs around good staff management. If you need an external HR resource to support managers with all their day to day issues – ask us!

Email us or call us.

The information contained within this article is for general guidance only and represents our understanding of employment and associated law and employee relations issues as at the date of publication. Jaluch Limited, or any of its directors or employees, cannot be held responsible for any action or inaction taken in reliance upon the contents. Specific advice should be sought on all individual matters.

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