COMMENT: PLATFORM; Kick these bad managements into touch

A new survey says that the UK is miserable at its work. Management is to blame for ignoring the basics, says John Makin

A new survey says that the UK is miserable at its work. Management is to

blame for ignoring the basics, says John Makin

We are not as happy in our work as we used to be, says a survey

published by International Survey Research - and what’s more we are far

less happy than the rest of Europe. We feel insecure, don’t think much

of our pay and are full of criticism of our managers and colleagues. Ten

years ago, we were half-way up the European job-satisfaction league. Now

the only country below the UK is Hungary.

The survey covered half a million employees in 400 companies in 17

countries. In the UK, only 53 per cent are satisfied with their working

lives, against 69 per cent in Switzerland, 66 per cent in Denmark and 65

per cent in Norway and Austria.

Of course there are numerous factors that have contributed to making us

feel down in the mouth, especially the lower job security induced by a

pretty stiff recession. This in turn has led to much tougher management

attitudes which do not encourage the ‘feel good factor’ amongst the

workforce. But another phenomenon in recent years which I believe has

been a factor is a flood of ‘instant’ management solutions.

Discussing the Prison Service in Management Today, Robert Heller wrote:

‘One statement of purpose, one vision, five values, six goals, seven

strategic priorities and eight key performance indicators. This litany

of modern management has won deserved scorn...the 28 elements are a dead

give-away: this is management by lip-service to ludicrous extremes.’

In other companies this lip-service emerges in a variety of different

forms. Zero defect quality circles. Putting people first because the

customer knows best. Let’s do it right first time and have lots of

committees so that we can all feel empowered and while we’re at it we’d

better benchmark that against best in class.

Do these things motivate a workforce? Do they help with job

satisfaction? I doubt it. Of course, you can be cynical and argue that

it doesn’t matter - if they make the company more effective, why should

management care what the workforce thinks? But in the long run job

satisfaction and happiness do matter because it is the dedication and

determination of the individual which is at the heart of the success of

any organisation.

I think the truth is that in many companies employees are screaming for

something much more basic. They want consistently fair and professional

management. They want to be treated with respect as intelligent grown-up

people. And they want open, honest communication. Many whizzy

initiatives are simply seen as a poor substitute for proper management.

Good managements understand all of this and have clever people on board

their ships to devise and execute communications strategies to fulfil

their goals and help make people smile again. Bad managements should

walk the plank.

John Makin is the new President of the British Association of

Communicators in Business, and managing director of Dewe Rogerson

Corporate Publications.

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