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The Boss Barometer Report UK 2019

A comprehensive review of how UK workers rate their relationship with managers

It is well-known that many of the most famous and successful businesses in the world today such as Amazon, Google and Salesforce are run according to Agile principles. These put innovation that delivers real value to customers at the forefront of their efforts. Doing that involves building and maintaining high-performing teams, decentralising decision-making and developing leaders who coach and motivate rather than issuing orders.

Leaders of businesses considering whether to adopt these methods often look for evidence that this is the way to go. The Kimble Boss Barometer survey confirms that employees are pushing in that direction. British workers who responded to this survey voiced strong support for key principles of Agile – a collaborative workplace culture, teams who are empowered to self-manage as far as possible, bosses who coach rather than issue orders.

Employees Keen to Work for ‘Agile’ Orgs

British workers don’t feel the need for a boss looking over their shoulder or ordering them about – the quality they most value in a boss is the ability to motivate and inspire. Two-thirds – 67 percent – are keen to take on more responsibility at work. Three quarters would like to provide more input to their managers. A similar number- 73 percent – say they would prefer to work in a collaborative culture, where decision making and responsibility are shared, to hierarchical one.

Kimble co-founder Mark Robinson who has written extensively about leadership and management issues, said:

“The survey shows that employees are keen to step up and take more responsibility at work. Business leaders should make sure that employees are not being held back by outdated structures.”

Bosses are Behind the Curve

However the survey shows that despite this demand for more autonomy and accountability coming from the workforce, many managers may be behind the curve. Almost half of UK workers – 48 percent – said they would do just as good a job without their boss’s input, and almost one in four – 21 percent – said they would do a better job. (In the US, even more workers – 66 percent – said they would perform just as well without their managers.)

Kimble co-founder Mark Robinson commented:

“We are moving away from a world where it is seen as the bosses job to tell people what to do. It is the boss’s job to provide clarity of mission and to remove obstacles to the team’s success.”

According to the respondents however, despite growing demand for this more collegiate style of management, there are still a great many workplaces which operate in a hierarchical, command and control style. Only a quarter -27 percent – indicated that their boss regularly consults them when making important decisions. (In the US, this was significantly higher at 34%)

UK Bosses More Hierarchical and Less Positive than US Counterparts

Fewer than half – 46 percent – feel their boss or manager is invested in their career growth and aspirations. (In the US, this number was higher at 56 percent). A third, 31 percent say their boss or manager is not interested in these things, compared to 23 percent in the US.

A significant minority of around a third voice more serious criticism of their boss’s management skills. More than a third – 36 percent – feel that their boss micromanages them too much. A similar number – 31 percent – say their boss or manager has taken credit for their work or contributions. Almost a third – 31 percent – find it hard to be honest with their boss or manager. (These numbers are broadly similar in both countries)

When workers are asked to rate their boss’s performance on a range of metrics: – decision-making, coaching ability and skill at delegating, they average a B. On a more positive note, the vast majority of workers – 78 percent say they respect their boss although this is fewer than the 88% of US workers who say this. And 74% of UK workers – 81% in the US – feel that their boss or manager respects them. Almost two thirds – 64 percent – say their boss has had a positive impact on their career or growth trajectory.

Encouraging Employees to Make Mistakes

Rather than blaming individual managers for being too hierarchical and taking important decisions without consultation, Robinson believes that having a supportive workplace culture is key to developing an Agile culture across the organisation. He said: “Encouraging people to make mistakes and try things is key. Where people have the autonomy to actually make decisions, they will develop skills more quickly and contribute more effectively. Good decision-making isn’t the same as getting everything right all the time. People will get things wrong and then learn from that.”

Robinson explained how he personally goes about sharing decision-making and encouraging autonomy.

“When someone brings a suggestion to me, I feel it is my job as a manager to either go with that solution or disagree – but not to procrastinate. In a culture of accountability, if the person isn’t actually 100% sure their idea will work they will say “Hang on a minute” and voice those reservations, allowing you to consider it more deeply. But if their solution was a definite fix for the problem they identified, they will feel empowered because it was immediately acted upon. “If you do disagree with their idea you can simply ask: “What were the facts upon which you based that decision?” Perhaps they didn’t have all the facts at their disposal. Alternatively, it could be that they have information which you were not aware of. Either way, that is a positive way to embark on the process of reviewing a decision.”

In a positive culture, Robinson argues, where people are engaging at the top of their game, they will be more likely to come up with solutions rather than simply reporting problems.

The Benefits of Improvement

It is clear from the survey that American workers are keen to have more say in decisions, to take more responsibility and to be their own boss more of the time, even when they work for a business or organisation. But why should bosses and managers take this seriously and strive to improve their score in the Boss report?

One reason may be the risk of losing top talent. Almost 60 percent of UK workers say just over how satisfied they are with their boss is a factor in deciding whether to leave their job, and for 15% it is the main factor.

That will give many business leaders pause for thought because it is generally acknowledged that employees are a business’s biggest asset. They are the people who deal day to day with customers and who are responsible for delivering on the organisation’s vision.

But employees, whether in software development or customer care, are also usually the main source of innovation and fresh thinking. They know where the rubber meets the road and they are best placed to see where improvement is required. If they have to refer everything to the boss, then they have to wait until the information filters up and the decisions filter down. That causes bottlenecks and delayed responsiveness.

And employees who feel more in control, who can take decisions and try things out tend to feel more engaged at work. Robinson said: “Having engaged and enthusiastic employees who feel supported to take decisions and try new things helps creates a culture of innovation and growth.”


For more information on the report or on Kimble, please contact Kelvin Morgan at [email protected].

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