Tired of all the manager bashing? Us too ...

Manager and employer bashing is a well-established phenomenon, especially on social media, but the Chartered Institute of Management (CMI) jumping on the bandwagon is unexpected.

This is a snippet of what I recently read in the Human Times – link to full article and CMI press release are at the bottom of this page:

The CMI’s director of policy, said improving the performance of UK managers is crucial to preventing toxic workplace cultures developing, warning that “this stuff is dragging down businesses, dragging down the economy.”

My first thought was … seriously, do you have to join all the manager bashing that is so rife on social media? My second thought was … I really hope I haven’t been doing this too!

Unpacking the reasons behind ‘manager bashing’

Our world outside of work has increasingly become about polarisation, the blame game, victimhood, inability to express ourselves with respect, brutal criticism, trolling etc. Of course, there are people who strive to not get drawn into this, but the wonder of algorithms and social media feeds make it hard to not have such messages endlessly reinforced.

I see plenty who get sucked into the messaging, which in this case is all too often ‘all managers are bad’, ‘managers damage our mental wellbeing’, ‘employers don’t care’, ‘managers always look to take advantage’ and so on.

In this case, the CMI is adding ‘managers aren’t preventing a toxic culture which has caused 1/3 of the workforce to resign’. And the result of endless blame, criticism, judgement, lack of respect and so on adds up to a general malaise in society that damages us all and is, invariably, brought into the workplace.

The influence of workplace culture on perceptions

I run an HR and training business and, as a trainer, I bust a gut every time I deliver to ensure that managers feel I am supporting them, not pointing a big fat finger and saying ‘it’s your fault’ and ‘why didn’t you try harder’? Toxic workplace cultures are being created by a lot more than is within the control of managers, but unfortunately confirmation bias ensures that many only look for what managers are not doing well, rather than seeing what they are doing well.

I live in the real world, and let me acknowledge that there are some bad, immoral, downright nasty managers out there. But the majority of managers are just like you and I, striving each day to do the job and slowly get better at it.

Here are just a few of the things that many managers (and others in the workplace) have done well in recent years:

  • Adapted to what has been nearly week on week change in many organisations
  • Coped with the great resignation
  • Coped with Brexit ramifications on their organisation
  • Coped with the surge in absence
  • Sought to find new ways to communicate with remote workers
  • Re-thought how work can be done in a hybrid world
  • Re-adjusted thinking given #metoo and the transgender debate that is ongoing
  • Tried hard to understand and respond to the needs of Gen Z
  • Had to do stressful redundancies on numerous occasions
  • Survived – just like the rest of us
  • Not complained about their ongoing exhaustion

Challenging the blame game

A big change across the 35+ years of my HR career is that managers in today’s world regularly get grievances raised against them when trying to manage bad behaviours and poor performance. Quite often these are harsh, nasty, and potentially career damaging grievances. They are also often vilified by vocal staff who hound them both inside and outside of work and the lack of respect is quite honestly, a public/social and organisational embarrassment. We will be lucky if we don’t see at some point good managers ‘laying down their arms’ in protest. They often feel under supported by the law of the land, over exposed to and under protected from the criticisms and hostility they face and, in many cases, set up by their leaders and society to fail.  

Interestingly, when training for performance reviews we always say, never set a goal that is unachievable otherwise your employee won’t even begin to do what you are asking of them. With this in mind, is the CMI being realistic and fair to managers to say that managers are responsible for ensuring that toxic cultures are not created? I say ‘no’, look at the wider organisational and social issues before you jump to solely blame managers. 

What’s the solution?

I see manager bashing everywhere I go. It’s utterly dispiriting. But how about instead of saying ‘managers need training as without it they are dragging down businesses and the economy’, we say instead, ‘in this incredibly challenging world where expectations of what managers can do or should do has skyrocketed, managers need greater support to understand how they can manage difficult people and difficult situations, to understand legal risk and best practise, to better understand what causes conflict and how to diffuse conflict and to be part of an organisation-wide project to create and sustain a positive, accountable, respectful culture.’

Training for managers, of course, will be one part of that, but only one part as a positive culture is something that cannot be mandated, but instead is something created by every single person in an organisation, from the top to the most junior position. Yes, we need to expect high standards from our managers, but we need to expect those high standards from every single person we employ. Culture is about how we all behave, not just something mandated and managed by a manager.   

Human Times Article: Bad management is driving workers to quit

Research carried out by the Chartered Management Institute (CMI) shows that almost a third of UK workers have quit a job because of a negative workplace culture. The poll, which highlighted concern about the quality of management, saw 28% of the 2,018 workers questioned say they left a job due to a negative relationship with a manager, while 12% pointed to discrimination or harassment. Among those who said they had an ineffective manager, a third said they were less motivated to do a good job, while around half were considering leaving in the next 12 months. The CMI found that 82% of new managers are “accidental managers” who have no formal training in management or leadership. Among this group, 15% said they had called out poor behaviour, while among managers who had undergone training, the rate was 25%. Anthony Painter, the CMI’s director of policy, said improving the performance of UK managers is crucial to preventing toxic workplace cultures developing, warning that “this stuff is dragging down businesses, dragging down the economy.”

CMI Press Release


From Jaluch

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Disclaimer: 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.



Helen Jamieson

Jaluch MD

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