New working structures? We've never had it so bad...

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Flexible working, teleconferencing, flatter working structures...the world would seem to be becoming a brighter place for today's manager. Not so, says a new study from research organisation Roffey Park, which reveals that managers are struggling to cope with the pace of working life at the beginning of the 21st century.

Caroline Glynn and Linda Holbeche, researchers at Roffey Park questioned 204 managers about their attitudes towards work today for their report, The Management Agenda 2001, and found that the biggest challenge they were facing was coping with flatter, leaner organisations with fewer staff.

'Downsizing' may be a popular concept aimed at creating more efficient companies, but by cutting costs in this way, more work is often created for those left behind, which leaves managers struggling to cope with both their own increased workloads and motivating their staff as well, says the report. "Many organisations simply don’t have sufficient numbers of employees anymore and this is leaving managers stressed out by feelings of lack of time, lack of control and lack of support," say Glynn and Holbeche.

Change is often portrayed as a positive, constructive thing to those involved, but many managers are disappointed that the results don't match up to what was planned: "The promised benefits of change have not materialised in many organisations," said the authors. Of the managers surveyed, most don't feel that their new organisational structures are working effectively or have resulted in better performance.

With greater demands being placed on them to coach and develop others, as well as adopting a more creative approach at work, many of those questioned are shifting their loyalties away from their employer towards themselves, their family or their profession because they feel they don't get sufficient recognition for the work they do, say the report's authors: "A mismatch has emerged between individual and organisational views of what is acceptable performance.....dissatisfaction with their reward is having a compounding negative impact on the motivation and loyalty of managers. Many are still prepared to take on extra responsibilities but the research indicates that this is more likely to be for the benefit of their own CVs rather than out of any organisational commitment." The majority of managers would prefer to be rewarded with benefits in time rather than money.

The report also reveals that many only pay lip service to developing a culture based on knowledge management, 70% preferring instead to use information to their own advantage to gain power within an organisation. The authors view this as a worrying development: "Many organisations see the benefits of fostering a knowledge management culture where employees work together for the common good. In reality, the complete opposite is often the case. Managers feel very much in competition with each other, they are increasingly playing office politics and many are refusing to share information."

The main findings are consistent with those from the last three reports, which all highlighted the prevalence of stress caused by long hours, change and uncertain employment prospects.

Roffey Park publishes a similar study annually. The authors of this one note that "The same concerns are recurring year after year. Organisations need to concentrate much more on engaging managers in their jobs and enhancing their motivation and loyalty."

TrainingZONE says: Are things really this bad? The survey involved a relatively small sample, taken from all shapes and sizes of organisation, but it makes us wonder what sort of questions were put to the managers in order for them to react in this way. On the other hand, maybe the study is indicative of today's working world, and maybe this is the way of the future which managers need to accept.

‘The Management Agenda 2001’ is available from Roffey Park, priced £30. Call 01293 854065 or e-mail [email protected].

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