Do we still need managers? Most workers say no

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The vast majority of American workers believe they can do their job effectively without the supervision of a manager, and during the ongoing Great Resignation, employers may want to take notice.

In a recent survey of 3,000 American workers conducted by GoodHire, 83% of respondents said they could do their job without a manager. This number rises to 89% for finance and insurance professionals, 88% among healthcare workers and 87% for those in hospitality, science and technology positions. Beyond that, 84% of respondents said they could do their manager’s job and 82% said they would consider quitting because of a bad manager.

“A lot of times people equate being a manager with micromanaging people, and I don’t think that’s the best way to manage,” says GoodHire CEO Mike Grossman. “People do their best when they’re not micromanaged, and in many cases they don’t need to be watched as much.”

Grossman says the widely shared sentiment toward managers can be attributed to two main causes: how they’re selected and how they’re trained (or untrained).

“People are sort of self-taught when it comes to being a manager in many cases, so it’s no surprise that they replicate behaviors that have been modeled for them in other organizations, and often it’s not best practice,” he said. said. “The other reason is that probably a lot of people were promoted to leadership positions because they were very self-interested – they pursued their own goals and ambitions – so it rewards people who may not be as empathetic. .”

According to a 2018 study by WestMonroe, 34% of managers do not receive any specific manager training. This number increases to 59% for those supervising one or two people and 41% for those supervising three to five. In addition, 43% of all managers do not receive specific management training during their first year on the job.

Empathetic Managers Wanted

While managers are often promoted in recognition of their job performance, individual accomplishments are rarely a strong indicator of managerial abilities. In recent years, and particularly during the pandemic, there has been a wider recognition of the importance of showing empathy as a manager. According to a recent study conducted by EY Consulting, 90% of American workers equate empathetic leadership with greater job satisfaction, 88% say it retains employees, and 79% agree it reduces turnover.

“The best managers are people who really care about the people they work with, and [who] bring them back,” Grossman says. “It’s not just lip service, it’s not just rhetoric; they genuinely care about people, their happiness, their professional development, and they invest time and energy in helping their team members.

However, according to another recent survey, this one conducted by Gartner, only 47% of managers feel they are ready to lead with empathy.

“We are going from someone who manages the tasks of their employees to someone who has to be almost like a social worker or a school counselor to support their employees when they face challenges, both at work and in their lives. personal,” says Brian Kropp. , director of research at Gartner. “If you don’t want your employees to tell you about their personal circumstances, their personal needs, and if you’re not there to support them, chances are you shouldn’t be a manager.”

Employees now look to co-workers, not managers, for help

Kropp adds that managers are traditionally promoted because they master a specific job and are responsible for helping others accomplish those same tasks. Over time, however, he says managers’ responsibilities — and the number of workers reporting to them — have skyrocketed, making it harder to provide that hands-on assistance. According to the Gartner survey, 70% of mid-size HR leaders say managers are overwhelmed with their responsibilities.

“If you compare today with what it was about 15 years ago, the average manager’s span of control has increased by about 70%, so the average manager has a lot more direct reports than before” , he said. “When I’m one of many people trying to get in touch with my manager, it’s just harder for that manager to find time for me.”

As a result, according to Kropp, employees look to their co-workers for the help and guidance they would have traditionally sought from a manager. “Employees feel that their managers know less about their day-to-day work than their peers and colleagues, so employees are more likely to look to their colleagues for guidance and coaching on how to do their jobs” , he said. “You put it all together, and it creates an environment where the average employee derives more value from their relationship with their peers than from their managerial relationship.”

Managers are a key contributor to workplace toxicity

Not only have managers become less of a resource for their direct reports, but they are also a primary source of toxicity in the workplace. According to a recent study conducted by CultureX, a toxic company culture is the number one cause of employee attrition and is more than 10 times more likely to be the cause of an employee leaving than compensation. “Leaders play a disproportionate role in the formation of toxic cultures and specifically toxic micro-cultures,” says Charles Sull, co-founder of CultureX.

Toxic cultures, according to Sull, often condone or even promote disrespectful behavior, discrimination, and inequality. He says the effects of a toxic culture can be detrimental to company performance, but have an even more concerning role in employee burnout, depression and even suicide.

Sull explains that toxic cultures are rarely universally prevalent in large organizations. They will appear more frequently in specific teams or pockets of organizations, which he calls “microcultures.” He adds that managers are often the biggest source of toxicity within these microcultures. “Leadership has such a big role in culture that it’s impossible to disentangle them,” he says.

Technology takes the guesswork out of choosing managers

Our selection process for managers, our heightened expectations of them, and the outsized influence they can have in creating a toxic work environment could explain why so many workers feel they could do their jobs effectively without a supervisor. . These trends are also prompting some organizations to take a different approach to selecting and evaluating managers.

“We have these breakthroughs in big data and data analytics that allow you to get a more systematic and accurate idea of ​​a leader’s characteristics, and then take those characteristics into consideration when making performance decisions. “, says Sull.

He explains that organizations have traditionally collected employee feedback on their managers, but the volume of data generated from these ratings is often too overwhelming to use effectively.

“Technologies like predictive modeling have made it easier to understand this treasure trove of data that most large organizations already have,” he says, adding that such tools could go a long way in restoring trust in managers. “I work in this area, so I might be a little biased, but it’s a very promising technology, and I’ve seen with my own eyes that it can be very effective in making engagement decisions. “

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