U.K. survey: IT managers blamed for staff malaise

Reactive, bureaucratic, and authoritarian management harms employee morale and health, according to research by management-services firm.

Overly authoritarian and bureaucratic IT managers are bad for morale and productivity and are making their staff sick.

According to the Quality of Working Life survey conducted by U.K.-based management-services firm Chartered Management Institute, the most widely experienced management styles in the U.K.'s IT sector are reactive (45 percent), bureaucratic (38 percent), and authoritarian (24 percent)--management styles that can all have a negative impact on workers' morale, productivity, and even health.

These three management styles have also become more common in the IT sector--with reactive and bureaucratic styles increasing by six percent since 2004, and authoritarian leadership rising by 5 percent. A CMI spokeswoman said rates of reactive management in IT are "slightly higher" than in some other industries.

The CMI said there is evidence to show that more positive types of management --those which seek to empower staff and encourage a supportive and open workplace culture--are better for business as they can boost staff morale and productivity.

"Where cultures are more innovative or more proactive, there's generally greater motivation in organizations," the CMI spokeswoman told Silicon.com.

More than a third (37 percent) of organizations that are performing well have "accessible" management teams, whereas 56 percent of declining companies display bureaucratic tendencies and a quarter have a "secretive" environment.

Bad management also can be blamed for workplaces where a "sick-note culture" exists.

Just one in 10 respondents to the survey said absence increased in organizations with "innovative" and "trusting" cultures. By contrast, almost half (45 percent) said rates of absenteeism have gone up where employers treat staff with suspicion.

However, a reactive management style in the IT sector could be attributed to the nature of the work, said the spokeswoman. "It's often viewed as a service function. Often IT will feel that they are at the beck and call of the business units, so they're often having to react to changing business priorities," she said.

The spokeswoman said IT managers should think about how they can be more proactive, by "going to the business and saying how IT can support the organization's goals." She also pointed to the fact that, when it comes to sensing that they are helping organizations achieve their goals, IT managers can have a lower sense of achievement than managers from some other sectors.

"There's a link for me," she said, "around feeling that you're having to react and a sense of: 'How much impact do I have on enabling the organization to achieve its goals?' So perhaps we need to work harder at getting IT managers to help staff, help people, help themselves understand how they help achieve the organization's goals--and have a greater sense of purpose and drive in those goals."

The Quality of Working Life survey is based on the views of more than 1,500 individuals, with 262 respondents from the IT sector.

Natasha Lomas of Silicon.com reported from London.

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