It could be hurting your business more than you think.

Half of UK workers quit due to bad management, and 4 out of 10 managers say they’ve never received any management training. These are the latest damning figures uncovered in new research by Totaljobs.

The survey asked over 500 line managers how they rated themselves as performing bosses – on average they felt their management was pretty good, rating themselves at 7.8 out of 10. But, nearly 2,000 employees were asked the same question about their bosses and they didn’t agree, rating them on average a meagre 4.7 out of 10 for performance.

There is clearly an imbalance between how good managers think they are and how employees perceive their skills. Overwhelming evidence suggests that many managers lack the leadership skills required to motivate employees and get the best out of their teams.

the UK productivity puzzle and the quality of work life.

The UK productivity puzzle has long weighed heavily on the minds of politicians, economists and business leaders. It is a complex problem and can’t be blamed on management alone. But, as the Financial Times highlight, bad bosses are making Britain’s productivity puzzle worse. 

“British Management is part of our productivity problem” writes Gavin Kelly, Chief Executive of The Resolution Trust. Kelly says, managers, like drivers, tend to think they are better than they are. “Managerial mediocrity still reigns.”

He argues that the link between the state of British management and national prosperity is not all that we should fret about. There is also the impact that bosses have on the quality of life in the workplace to be considered.

In a detailed report on solving the UK productivity puzzle, Mckinsey also highlight the fact that management skills are more important than ever for productivity. “Poor management practices make it less likely that a firm will invest in and adopt information and communications technology and digital technology effectively.”

Poor management affects the wellbeing and productivity of staff. It operates in business models that fall behind in technological advancement. Ultimately, bad managers have a considerable impact on the overall productivity and profitability of business.

So how do you know if your managers are holding your business and your employees back? Are they - and your lack of investment in them - at the root of your staff retention problem?

Let’s take a look at what poor management looks like, the impact it has on employees and for comparison the qualities of a great manager.

poor manager behaviour.

The five worst manager behaviours reported in the previously mentioned Totaljobs survey by employees were:

  • Favouritism
  • Disrespecting colleagues behind their backs
  • Making informal threats
  • Taking credit for others work
  • Criticising colleagues in public

The Chartered Management institute (CMI) says the best managers play the role of mentor to their teams. According to CMI the biggest habits that demotivate staff and are a sign of bad management include:

  • Poor communication
  • An inability to listen
  • Wasting time in pointless meetings
  • Being unavailable
  • Ignoring the career development of the people they are managing

the impact of bad management on employees.

Poor management undoubtedly has a negative effect on employees. Bad management behaviour ranges from incompetence and micromanaging to out and out bullying. All have an impact on employee engagement, productivity and retention. It increases employee stress, impacts well-being at work and kills the urge to go above and beyond.

Bad leadership is demotivating and makes people feel they aren’t valued. Inconsistency, favouritism, unpredictable behaviour, withholding information, a lack of trust, a lack of care and compassion, and a lack of clear direction are all signs of poor management that contribute towards a negative work environment. It’s a situation that sucks the goodwill out of employees and loses businesses money.

what are good leadership skills?

Anyone can be a manager. But, as recent studies show, many aren’t actually very good at it. Exceptional managers put a lot of effort into supporting and developing the people they manage. They are good communicators, they listen, they have a natural ability to empathise, they are good at spotting development opportunities for staff and they delegate effectively rather than micromanage.

Good managers empower, inspire and accomplish great things. They celebrate the successes of the employees they manage and aren’t afraid to surround themselves with people who are brighter and better than themselves.

They show a genuine interest and concern in all of the employees they manage and understand that individuals are just that – individual! They get that each employee may require something different from management in order to thrive. A great manager is nurturing but strong and not afraid to confront problems with team members head on. They believe in autonomy and responsibility and above all a great leader acts with integrity.

Some are natural leaders, but most are not. Management skills can be taught and this is where most businesses are going wrong. Coaching for managers is critical for success.


It is easy to point a finger at poor managers, but ultimately, they exist in business models and cultures with leaders that don’t care and don’t have a clue about how to engage employees. 

This often simply comes down to a lack of coaching, but also results when the wrong people are promoted into managerial positions. Just because someone is a great employee and a recognised contributor, it doesn’t mean they will be a good manager.

There is far more to management than industry knowledge. Managing people is a skill in itself. Inept management impacts employee engagement and wellbeing. Bad managers ultimately have a negative impact on the bottom line. 

Management in business has a leading role to play in making work life enjoyable and ensuring employees have the tools and support they need to be at their most productive. It matters for employees and for business as much as it matters for the economy and society as a whole.

written by Dakota Murphey

Dakota Murphey

guest blogger

Dakota Murphey has over a decade of experience in business management and growth consultancy.