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
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