A recent survey by the CMI asserts that 75% of workers are obliged to make decisions that they don’t feel qualified to make. “So why don’t they ask their boss about it”? I hear you ask. Well – the same survey reveals that nearly two thirds of workers have wanted to ask such a question of their boss, but feel unable to do so because of a perceived lack of approachability. You will probably not be suprised to hear that this leads, in turn, to a loss of respect for managers, worry about uninformed decision-making and a tendency to cover up mistakes. This is potentially a recipe for failure and stress and yes, indeed – one in ten of the participants blame their poor health on their boss’s behaviour.
The survey also reveals that employees won’t ask their bosses for advice, because they fear that admitting a lack of knowledge about something will be construed as a sign of weakness. In fact, their manager is probably sitting in his/her office, equally terrified that if they open their mouth to offer advice or a solution, they will display their own ignorance to their staff with each utterance. Truly, a Catch-22.
The CMI Spokeswoman goes on to talk about the necessity for managers to receive the right training in order to equip them to make the right decisions, advise their staff properly and win their respect. This is all good, on-message stuff but it doesn’t entirely answer the question, to my way of thinking. It seems to me that there’s a far more fundamental problem here, that of a failure to communicate. How many managers hold regular meetings with their teams and foster a relaxed, collegiate atmosphere in their departments, thus giving even the lowliest employee the confidence to ask questions and seek help?
In my opinion, one of the most difficult managerial skills is maintaining an open, friendly management style with subordinates, whilst making it clear that you are in charge. As head of a team, you can never be quite as friendly with your staff as you could when they were your peers, but I’d argue that the best managers are those who successfully walk this precarious tightrope. If your team respect and trust you, everyone is happy, effective – and fulfilled.