A third of UK Employees have experienced a ‘toxic’ manager’

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For some time now, discussions on www.makeadifference.media have delved deep into the detrimental impacts of toxic managers on workplace culture and employee wellbeing. It’s therefore intriguing that strategic skills provider Corndel has recently released research honing in on this very issue, shedding light on its prevalence and consequences.

The impact of toxic managers reverberates far beyond mere dissatisfaction—it corrodes morale, stifles productivity, and erodes trust. Corndel’s recently released Workplace Training Report, confronts these challenges head-on. The report unveils three critical revelations: a third of UK employees have encountered toxic managers, HR leaders recognise the pressing need for leadership training, and a seismic shift towards empathetic management practices is underway.

Key Insights from Corndel’s Workplace Training Report 2024

Many HR decision-makers (70%) identify ‘bad managers’ as a pervasive organisational issue. They believe that providing leadership training is key to eliminating toxic workplace cultures.

The report found that a third of employees in the UK (33%) have experienced a ‘toxic manager’ at work in the past five years. Shockingly, over four in ten (41%) have even left their jobs due to their dissatisfaction with management*.

These worrying findings are from Corndel’s Workplace Training Report 2024, which surveyed 250 HR decision makers at large organisations and 1,000 UK employees*. Toxic manager traits include micromanaging, inflexibility, intimidation, gaslighting colleagues and deflecting accountability.  

This is having a significant impact on employees’ experiences at work. Almost half of employees (47%) say that receiving mental health support and empathy from their workplace is crucial for their job satisfaction. Additionally, 46% feel that a positive workplace culture boosts their job performance, especially among younger employees aged 18-34, where it rises to 55%.

Despite these concerns, nearly seven in ten (69%) HR leaders admit that ‘bad managers’ are a prevalent issue within their organisations. However, only 54% of HR professionals believe their organisation’s leaders possess the necessary skills to cultivate effective high performing teams. But in contrast, 81% of HR decision makers are confident that their managers uphold the organisation’s values. 

Importance of meeting management culture expectations

James Kelly, co-founder and CEO of Corndel, said: “In an era where company culture is actively promoted and workplace mental health is marketed as an employee benefit, ensuring that employees’ lived experiences meets their expectations for management culture is key. The evolving expectations of employees are moving beyond free breakfasts and ping-pong tables to influencing organisational structures built on empathy and inclusion, with mental health and wellbeing support baked into the culture”. 

“HR decision-makers must prioritise finding solutions for toxic workplaces, recognising that empathy, emotional intelligence and mental health support are critical factors in enhancing employee retention, performance, and job satisfaction.”

‘Accidental’ managers lack key skills

A substantial number of toxic and ineffective managers may stem from the promotion of ‘accidental’ managers to higher positions, especially during periods of insufficient qualified candidates, exacerbated by the UK’s skills shortage. According to recent research by the Chartered Institute of Managers**, 82% of individuals entering management roles have received no formal management or leadership training. Alarmingly, half of those lacking effective managerial guidance intend to leave their organisation within the next 12 months.

Cultivating leadership and management skills to grow high-performing teams

HR leaders nearly unanimously agree (99% of those surveyed) that leadership training is an effective approach to combating a toxic workplace culture – and more than half (54%) are convinced that workplace training can completely eliminate toxicity. 

Over six in ten (62%) organisations are set to boost their training budgets in 2024, marking a notable increase from 48% in 2023. Furthermore, 90% of HR decision-makers acknowledge the substantial impact of mental health on business performance, highlighting that we’ll likely see a shift towards improved mental health and wellbeing policies being woven into workplace culture in the near future.

James Kelly added: “Our report emphasises that urgent action is required to prevent the domino effect of toxic managers on employee wellbeing, engagement, and retention. By prioritising leadership development that focuses on ‘human’ management skills, emotional intelligence and mental health support, HR teams can combat toxic management cultures and build motivated, psychologically secure teams.”

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*Opinium Research conducted an online poll on behalf of Corndel with 250 HR decision makers in organisations with 250+ employees and an online poll with 1,000 UK employees on 7th to 11th December 2023.

** Chartered Institute of Management report, October 2023

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