Managers are struggling. How can employers help them adapt and survive?

)(Credit: Unsplash

This article is brought to you thanks to the collaboration of The European Sting with the World Economic Forum.

Author: Valérie Beaulieu-James, Chief Sales & Marketing Officer, The Adecco Group

  • The pandemic has changed the way we work and “The Great Resignation” has seen many people quit their jobs.
  • The Adecco Group’s Global Workforce of the Future report highlights a potential managerial meltdown.
  • Managers need more recognition and support to cope with the demands and responsibilities of their roles.

It’s been a turbulent three years for employers. The pandemic has been a uncompromising period of enforced social distancing, deep-cleaning, shutdowns, a new home-working culture, livestream meetings, re-opening, re-closing, re-opening. On top of that, employers have been managing “The Great Resignation” as thousands of employees have chosen to seek pastures new.

For many employees this same turbulence has led to new opportunities, with flexible and remote working generating an exciting new jobs market, but The Adecco Group’s Global Workforce of the Future Report 2022 suggests the middle manager is struggling.

The world of the manager

A manager is there to organise, oversee, motivate and support staff, from the office junior to the colleague who’s only a whisker below them in the hierarchy. Wrangling these assorted personalities and their needs is a hugely energetic undertaking.

Meanwhile, there’s the upper echelons to please. The manager is constantly pulled in opposite directions, shifting from superior to subordinate and back again, possibly several times a day.

Above him, the manager is reporting on the team, whether it’s delivering on budget or on target and what problems need solving. Beneath him, the manager is carrying responses, directives and news – good and bad – from above. It’s fair to say the manager is very much the shock-absorber in both directions.

It’s not all about the money

Most managers – 63% – feel they are adequately paid, whereas only 41% of non-managers feel their salary is a fair reflection of their work. Since 2019, 60% of managers have had raises compared to only 40% of non-managers.

Salary is not the key driver of ambition for most managers. While 52% of non-managers cite the pursuit of a higher salary as their top motivation for quitting their current job, in managers it’s just 37%.

It’s easy to conclude that, being generally better paid, managers might feel improving their income is less of an issue. Yet other insights from our findings paint a more complex picture.

The stats show that both non-managing employees (66%) and bosses (75%) look to the manager to improve working conditions. Managers agree – 71% think it is their responsibility. Yet, with all this responsibility, they are simultaneously the most vulnerable in the workplace. With many firms seeking leaner and meaner structures, the manager is often targeted when shedding fat.

Couple this with a role that requires almost constant pivoting and then add the earthquakes of change from the past three years, and it’s not hard to grasp why 45% of managers admit to burnout, compared to only 23% of non-managers.

According to a recent Gallup poll, between 2020 and 2021 self-reported burnout rose from 28% to 35% among managers, while it flatlined at 27% for non-managers and dropped from 25% to 22% among leaders.


How is the World Economic Forum promoting equality in the workplace?

The World Economic Forum’s Centre for the New Economy and Society shapes prosperous, resilient and equitable economies and societies. It takes an integrated approach to promote the new fundamentals of economic growth, good work standards, and better education; embed diversity, equity, inclusion and social justice in the new economy; and identify global risks.

  • Through the Partnering for Racial Justice in Business initiative, the Forum is working with a global coalition of organizations committed to building equitable and just workplaces for professionals with under-represented racial and ethnic identities.
  • The Forum’s Reskilling Revolution is preparing the global workforce with the skills needed to future-proof careers. The initiative is working with over 350 organizations to provide 1 billion people with better education, skills and economic opportunities by 2030.
  • Since 2006, the Forum has been measuring gender gaps in countries around the world in the annual Global Gender Gap Report. The Forum has also helped to establish groups of accelerators focused on closing the economic gender gap in Chile, Argentina, Egypt, Jordan and Kazakhstan.
  • Working with the Valuable500, the Forum is collaborating with the largest global network of CEOs committed to disability inclusion, making progress towards closing the disability inclusion gap.

Contact us for more information on how to get involved.

It could be all about training

In the Adecco Group’s report, 64% of managers reported their company hadinvested in their development, compared with only 36% of non-managers. This uneven spread of training has ramifications across all employees. With less than 4 in 10 non-managers satisfied with training – and the career prospects that come with it – there is a danger of a drought in the talent pipeline. That means more time spent onboarding new people, higher turnover rates, a lack of continuity running through the company culture, among other things.

Another curious insight is that despite acknowledging more investment in their development, the manager is more intensely aware of their shortcomings, with 88% reporting skills gap anxiety, compared to 72% of non-managers. They are fully aware they need to spend more time on upskilling – but where are they going to find that time? And how? Something’s got to give.

A 2021 study by Gartner found 68% of HR leaders recognized that many managers were overwhelmed by the increasing complexity of their responsibilities in the new hybrid and flexible working landscape. Meanwhile, only 14% of organizations had, at this point, changed the design of the managerial role.

Health is wealth

The sum of all these pressures seems likely to be in mind when a manager begins to browse the recruitment pages. Getting a good salary may be a given, but it’s of little value to you if you’re too burned out to enjoy it.

Wellbeing – both mental and physical – rates highly, with 58% of non-office workers and 70% of office workers citing it as a key factor in their career happiness and forward planning. Testament to this is that 48% of (non-desk based) managers would be willing to take a pay cut in order to work fewer hours.

The two groups most likely to value wellbeing are young people and managers. Perhaps because the former have had early positive experience of more flexible and balanced ways of working, while the latter have had longer experience in how damaging the lack of it can be.

The middle manager role has long been the butt of the joke – misunderstood, derided and dismissed as disposable – but it’s a crucial cog in the workplace machinery, which doesn’t seem to be getting the oil it needs to adapt and survive.

The role is being stress-tested week on week in the ever-evolving global workplace, and it needs that oil. Without it, the world of work may be about to witness a worrying follow on to The Great Resignation – The Mass Managerial Meltdown.

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